Cystic Fibrosis – Topical Issues Debate

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Speech by James Reilly T.D., Minister for Health.

I would like to thank Deputy Flanagan for raising this issue.   This Government is acutely aware of the challenges that people with cystic fibrosis, and their families, face in managing their condition.

It is always the aim of healthcare professionals  to avoid hospital admissions for CF wherever possible, in order to minimise risk of exposure to infection. Beaumont Hospital provides services to adults with cystic fibrosis in a dedicated Outpatient facility which is primarily focused on providing ambulatory care to people with cystic fibrosis.

The dedicated CF Outpatient Unit facilitates a comprehensive range of multidisciplinary services; these include outpatient clinics, a drop-in centre for clinical assessments with medical consultants and nurses, and the provision of treatments that would otherwise require hospitalisation, for example infusions and antibiotic therapies, assessment of pulmonary function, physiotherapy, dietetics and psychology.  The consultation and treatment rooms benefit from specialist air filtration systems for the purposes of infection control.

Where admissions are unavoidable, there is a need for dedicated accommodation in an environment which allows appropriate isolation for improved infection control.

It is Department of Health policy that there must be sufficient inpatient beds available nationally to treat all people with Cystic Fibrosis who require hospitalisation in single en-suite rooms.

The Nutley Wing at St Vincent’s University Hospital, which was built at a cost of €29m and opened in the summer of 2012, houses a dedicated CF unit and represents a major improvement in the care of Cystic Fibrosis patients in Ireland. The hospital currently treats 330 adults, which accounts for over 50% of the CF adult population.

Due to the proactive management of CF patients through their dedicated Outpatient facility, Beaumont rarely experiences emergency admissions of CF patients.  Access to single en-suite rooms is prioritised for patients with CF who require elective admission for prophylactic antibiotic therapy or other treatment on St Paul’s Ward, which is the specialist respiratory ward.

In discussion with the National Clinical Care Programme and the clinical team on-site, it has been identified that due to the increase in numbers within the service that there is a requirement for an increase in the number of in-patient single-room accommodation for Beaumont Hospital’s CF patients.

Beaumont is working through a number of options in relation to this and anticipates putting forward a business case for the 2015 National Service Plan. This will be considered in the context of service development in the Dublin North East Hospital Group.

A number of positive developments in CF services for the Dublin North East Hospital Group are coming on stream at present, with the opening last week of a new Out Patient Unit in Drogheda last week, adjacent to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, which will treat children and young adults from Meath, Louth and North County Dublin and the imminent official opening of an Outpatient CF Suite at Cavan General Hospital.

Thankfully the prognosis for this rare, but devastating disease, has vastly improved over the last number of years, due to significant investment in services and earlier diagnosis.

I would like to give you my assurance that this Government is committed, along with the HSE, to continuing investment in research projects and in training physicians to help people with this condition to live longer and healthier lives. We will work harder to limit the impact of this disease until such time as a cure can be found.