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Minister must prevent Peamount TB unit closure

22 March, 2004

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has urged the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin to intervene directly to prevent the closure of the specialist TB unit at Peamount Hospital in Dublin. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The termination by the Board of the Peamount Hospital of the contract of its medical director from today (Monday) and confirmation that it plans to close its respiratory and TB unit is a retrograde step with serious implications for public health. Staff are now operating without consultant cover and are unsure if they can admit further patients. This specialised respiratory and TB unit has done excellent work for many years but now it is to be closed with no replacement service in place.

"Multi-drug resistant TB is on the increase globally, including in the enlarged EU, and the loss of this service will deprive the country of a key resource in treating and preventing the spread of TB.

"When I raised the threatened closure with the Minister for Health and Children last autumn he cited the Report from Comhairle na nOspidéal recommending the treatment of respiratory diseases, including TB, at local acute general hospitals. It was signalled that St. James's in Dublin would receive patients hitherto referred to Peamount. But Peamount's TB service is to be discontinued without any alternative dedicated TB service being put in place. Staff and patients were promised a planned and phased transition but nothing has been done.

"Peamount provides special care to more vulnerable TB patients including people with drug and alcohol problems and staff and patients have made clear that such a service could not be provided if the unit was closed and responsibility shifted to another hospital or hospitals.

"Minister Martin has repeatedly claimed to favour 'centres of excellence' in healthcare, yet here we have a centre of excellence about to be closed down with serious consequences for public health. The Minister should intervene now to save the Peamount TB unit."

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