A dedicated unit to treat cystic fibrosis (CF) patients has been described as a tribute to campaigners who died before it was built.
Patients will tomorrow be moved into the specialised facility, which is part of the new Nutley wing in St Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) in south Dublin.
The unit has 34 inpatient rooms, with ensuite facilities, an exercise facility, a computer console and TV, and a further 10 CF day-care rooms.
Philip Watt, of the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland (CFAI), said it would be an emotional day and a tribute to campaigners, including Anita Slowey who died last year at the age of 24.
“This has been 12 years of campaigning and much heartache,” he said.
“It is a tribute to all of the people with CF, particularly to those who have been dedicated to this campaign like Anita Slowey, who is no longer with is, and Orla Tinsley and Jillian McNulty.
“It cannot be understated the huge impact the patients themselves made.
“It was the first time the general public knew what CF meant and why the facilities were so badly needed.”
CF is an inherited disease that primarily affects the lungs and the digestive system.
Ireland has the highest proportion of patients in the world, with one in 19 people said to carry one copy of the altered gene that causes it.
The battle started in 2000, but five years later an independent report found the position at St Vincent’s – the county’s main adult unit – was bleak.
While a new national CF centre was designated in 2006, no government commitment was given.
In April 2009, Ms Tinsley made an appearance on the Late Late Show, with several other sufferers, including Ms Slowey, joining a high-profile public campaign about their plight.
Last year incoming health minister James Reilly promised it would be expedited in its Programme for Government
The new wing cost a total of €22m, which was provided by the Government. It will have 100 inpatient rooms, with 34 dedicated to CF patients.
Mr Watt said: “This is a major step towards the better treatment of people with CF in Ireland.
“The next couple of days will be emotional as CF patients finally get proper facilities in St Vincent’s Hospital, but we still have a huge battle to improve CF services in other parts of Dublin and the rest of Ireland.”
Campaigner and Independent TD, Finian McGrath, commended the families and patients for their dedication and commitment on this project for many years.
“This week could be a great time for the patients and families after a long battle,” he said.
“Tomorrow some of the CF patients will be moving into their new en-suite private rooms. I am delighted for all the patients.”