Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Cystic Fibrosis Services


2:00 pm

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)

I welcome the Minister of State. I wish to raise with her the provision of adult cystic fibrosis in-care beds at Cork University Hospital. She will be aware that in Ireland one in 19 people carry the cystic fibrosis gene. When two parents carrying the gene have a child, there is a one in four chance that it will be born with cystic fibrosis. While we are unique in that we have a higher incidence of cystic fibrosis than any other country in the western world and our record in this regard is shameful. The statistics indicate that average life expectancy for CF patients in the Republic is 16 years, whereas in the North it is 26 years and in Canada, 36. The level of care one receives often determines one's life expectancy. An organ donor transplant system is being put in place. While our organ donation record is good, it could be better.

On the provision of 11 beds in a ward currently vacant at Cork University Hospital, the Build4Life organisation has raised almost €2 million to fit it out. This is an entirely voluntary organisation - it has no paid staff. Mr. Joe Browne from Castleisland who has been pioneering this effort for many years received an allocation of funding through the previous Minister for Health and Children from the national lottery. However, to start and complete this project a further €300,000 is required from the Government through the national lottery. When PRSI, all taxes and so on have been paid from the total sum of €2.3 million, the organisation will have returned €450,000 to the Exchequer. As such, an allocation of €300,000 from the Government, on top of the €2 million already raised by the Build4Life organisation, would result in a return of €450,000 to the taxpayer. However, all the indications thus far from the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, are that the Government cannot make any funding available.

While in a time of austerity one might say we cannot afford €300,000, when one considers there would be a return to the taxpayer of €450,000 following the spending of €2.3 million, it would make sense. Added to this is the moral argument that as a result of the provision of isolated beds people with cystic fribrosis would receive the care they deserve, resulting in a better quality of life and an altering of the shameful statistic of average life expectancy of 16 years. I, therefore, look forward to hearing the Minister of State's response.

I note that when in opposition the Minister made a number of pledges as to what he would do in this regard. Unfortunately, while he was available for meetings when in opposition, he is now unable to sit down with Dr. Plant, the cystic fibrosis specialist. Dr. Plant gained vast experience in Seattle and despite bringing that expertise to Ireland, he is not being given the resources he needs to ensure those with a low average life expectancy in Ireland, unlike others in the Six Counties, will have a good quality of life.


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