HSE should fill Cystic Fibrosis Vacancies – BREEN

April 17th, 2009 - Pat Breen

Speaking during the Fine Gael Private Members Motion Deputy said “The Government was embarrassed into a U-turn on the provision of isolation facilities at St. Vincent‘s hospital because of the courage of the cystic fibrosis patients and their families who were forced to take to the airwaves to make their cases heard.  These people have enough to worry about without this Government adding to their woes.  They have been forced to endure a week of unnecessary stress and anxiety.

  I give a guarded welcome to the renewed commitment that the unit at St. Vincent‘s will be in operation as early as possible in 2011.  Cystic fibrosis patients have been disappointed previously but I hope the Minister will deliver on this occasion.  Approximately 1,100 people in Ireland suffer from cystic fibrosis.  Those who attend the unit at St. Vincent‘s hospital include patients from my constituency of Clare.  When they present to hospitals they must contend with the fear that they will die through exposure to infections.  I know of one 25 year old man from Ennis who attends St. Vincent‘s but cannot present to accident and emergency departments when he requires medical attention because he is afraid he will die by doing so.  Cystic fibrosis sufferers have to wage daily battles for basic services to stay alive. Cystic fibrosis patients born in the Republic of Ireland have a shorter life expectancy than those born just over the Border, but this should not be the case.

  It is not just at St. Vincent’s Hospital that cystic fibrosis patients and their families have to battle against the system.  Approximately 30 patients from County Clare attend the unit at the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Limerick.  In 2006, additional funding of €6.78 million was allocated to the HSE to develop services for cystic fibrosis patients in Limerick.  Three years later, cystic fibrosis patients in Limerick are still without an adult cystic fibrosis consultant.  The cystic fibrosis association in Clare has worked hard and thanks to its efforts there is some movement at last.  The consultant positions and the positions of two cystic fibrosis nurses have finally been advertised.

  When I raised this matter in the House on the Adjournment debate of 9 July 2008, the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, told me the HSE was considering the consultant posts, and added that it was in the process of recruiting for the remaining posts.  However, it has taken seven months for those positions to be advertised.  Interested candidates have applied for the consultant positions but unfortunately an interview panel has not been approved.  In March, the two cystic fibrosis nurse positions were finally advertised, but Clare cystic fibrosis patients are worried that the recent moratorium on recruitment in the public service could affect recruitment to these positions.

  In reply to a parliamentary question last week, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, reassured me that the “moratorium does not apply to consultants and therapists”.  I welcome this decision.  If the Minister is really serious about improving facilities for cystic fibrosis patients, she should contact the HSE and ensure that these vacancies are filled as soon as possible.

  The mother of a cystic fibrosis patient told me recently that, “The longer our patients in Limerick are without an adult CF consultant, the more their overall health is at risk and they are in danger of having their life-span shortened.  For them, sometimes even to live life is an act of courage”. Cystic fibrosis patients in Ireland will continue to die unnecessarily young as a result of the basic facilities they require not being available here.  Even at a time of recession we must ensure that the weakest and most vulnerable are nurtured and cared for.”