A 27-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis (CF) who travelled from Waterford to Cork University Hospital (CUH) for treatment was sent home because there were no beds available — while a 20-bed respiratory ward within the hospital remains closed.
Kim Doheny made the two-hour trip to CUH last Monday after trying, unsuccessfully, to treat her respiratory infection intravenously at home.
“I rang the [CF] team on Monday. I was not feeling well, I had a pain in my lung and I had spikes in temperature. They said to come in. But when I got here, there was no bed. They assessed me and gave me the first dose of antibiotics and then I was sent home,” Kim said.
The following day, Kim got a call to say a bed was available. She returned to CUH and was admitted to a single room but not an isolation room, which is best practice for CF patients to reduce the risk of potentially fatal cross-infection.
There are eight isolation rooms in the respiratory ward which the hospital says it is not in a position to open due to staffing shortages. The ward was paid for, at a cost of €2.3m, by Munster-based CF charity Build4Life.
Kim has no TV in her room and no wifi access and because of the distance from home in Waterford City, she does not have many visitors.
The empty isolation room was paid for, at a cost of €2.3m, by Munster-based CF charity Build4Life but there are no nurses to staff it.
She ends up in hospital three or four times a year, and has never been admitted to an isolation room.
She said she is gutted that the new respiratory ward, with four isolation rooms ringfenced for CF patients, remains closed.
“I was in hospital in January and I was hoping the next time I came here the new ward would be open,” she said.
“It’s very upsetting to be coming into hospital and not know where you are going to end up. At the moment, I’m just staring at the four walls. As long as I’ve been coming here, I’ve never been in a room with a TV. And I expect to be here for about two weeks.”
Kim has brought her iPad and her own mobile wifi dongle with her, which costs about €20 every two days.
She would like someone from the Health Service Executive to “take my place for two weeks to see what it feels like”.
While she is full of praise for the CF team, she is “very upset, as are all the CF patients” that the new ward, with its state-of-the-art fit-out, remains closed.
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Kim’s ambition is to be a gym instructor. Mags Murphy, her personal trainer in Waterford, said Kim was “inspiring”. “Over a year ago Kim approached me and asked if she could train with me. She told me about her illness and stressed how she desperately wanted to get stronger,” Mags said.
However she added that it was “very tough” on Kim “because she’ll normally get no more than four weeks training before she’ll have to go on antibiotics which could put her out of action for up to three weeks”.
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