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Harney must restore TB unit at Peamount Hospital - Ó Caoláin

2 March, 2006

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Minister for Health Mary Harney “to restore the TB Unit at Peamount Hospital and to provide a national action plan to combat TB.” After securing an adjournment debate on the results of a study showing significant and alarming levels of TB in parts of Dublin, Deputy Ó Caoláin said the reply delivered on behalf of the Minister for Health and Children was "totally inadequate and an attempt to dismiss the report which the Minister admits she has not yet seen".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “This study has highlighted the inadequate hospital treatment provision for TB patients in the wake of the grossly irresponsible closure of the chest and respiratory unit, commonly known as the TB unit, at Peamount Hospital. The Government facilitated that closure. There is an urgent need for the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to outline the measures she will introduce to address this threat to public health.

“There were 437 cases of TB provisionally notified in 2004. In 2003 407 cases were notified. The figure for 2002 was 400. Clearly this is a very worrying trend and this latest study underlines the trend. Dr. Hannan has warned that there is a danger of an epidemic outbreak if urgent steps are not taken to control the disease. She says there is a very poor infrastructure in Ireland for the management, control and prevention of TB.  And she has also said, ‘The closure of Peamount has taken away a service that was essential.’

“When the threat to close the TB unit at Peamount first arose I wrote to the then Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin and asked him to intervene. The Minister did not intervene. The unit at Peamount was allowed to close. The promised facilities at St. James’s Hospital have not materialised. And now we have a study showing an increased threat from TB. In the international context there is concern at new and more virulent strains of TB. This is a very worrying situation and we are actually less well equipped to deal with it than we were three years ago.

“I call on the Minister to restore the TB unit at Peamount and to provide a national action plan to combat TB.” ENDS

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