[Sinn Fein]

November 19 2001

MacManus seeks immediate action for Sligo-Leitrim Kidney Patients following tour of Sligo Renal Dialysis Unit

Sinn Fein election candidate for Sligo-Leitrim Councillor Seán MacManus has criticised the North Western Health Board's failure to provide the long-awaited new renal dialysis unit for Sligo and Leitrim kidney patients.

Speaking after his recent tour of the Sligo General Hospital Renal Dialysis Unit, Cllr. MacManus said ``The Irish Kidney Association rates our dialysis unit as being in the worst condition of any in the country. It is one of the two smallest units in Ireland. There is no resident consultant nephrologist. I can confirm that the unit is cramped, and housed in an unsuitable building separate from the main hospital. Despite the heroic efforts of the nursing staff who do everything in their power to make patients time on the Unit as comfortable as possible, the conditions there are inadequate, to say the least. This is no small matter, as dialysis patients spend up to four hours at a time, three times a week in treatment. There is absolutely no question in my mind that we need a new unit.''

MacManus said, ``Constituents receiving dialysis alerted me to this problem a year ago. When I contacted the NWHB at that time, they reassured me that relocating and refurbishing the unit was a top priority. When I recently heard that the unit had not yet been relocated, I went there to see for myself. During my visit I received fresh assurances that the new unit would be up and running no later than autumn 2002 - a year from now. However, based on past events, I have reason to greet this promise with scepticism.''

MacManus explained, ``When this renal dialysis unit was first built nearly twenty years ago, patients were told that the accommodations were temporary. The NWHB committed to a new unit at least as early as 1998. The NWHB reiterated this commitment in their Service Plan for 2001, where they identified a new renal dialysis unit as one of a few key capital developments planned for Sligo General Hospital for this year. They announced plans for it more than a year ago. However, the unit still has not been relocated and refurbished. Now they say that patients must wait for up to another year.''

MacManus continued, ``The fact is that many promises have been made to these patients over the years. The Minister of Health promised that renal services funding would `ensure equitable availability of treatment choices throughout the country,' and that `patients have a right to expect the best possible care and treatment in modern and appropriate surroundings.' The National Development Plan promised that capital investment in health infrastructure would remedy existing deficiencies and to eliminate regional inequalities in access to quality service and facilities. The NWHB continues to promise that a new renal unit in Sligo is a `top priority' and a `key objective'. But promises alone are clearly not good enough. They must be followed by action.''

Calling on the NWHB to accelerate action to relocate and refurbish the unit, MacManus said ``Kidney patients in Sligo and Leitrim have waited long enough for a new renal dialysis unit. I am disturbed by the slowness of the relocation process, and I am concerned that the NWHB is not meeting the targets outlined in its own Service Plan. I would appeal to all those responsible to ensure that this situation is remedied without further delay.''

MacManus continued, ``Sadly, the state of the renal dialysis unit at Sligo General is just the tip of the iceberg of inequities in renal services in our region. Sligo and Leitrim kidney patients have only limited access to a consultant nephrologist from Dublin. The Sligo General unit only provides chronic haemodialysis. If patients need other forms of treatment, including kidney transplant, they still must travel to Dublin. There is no renal social worker attached to the Sligo unit. Therefore, in addition to the new dialysis unit, we also need more comprehensive renal services for Sligo and Leitrim, to give our kidney patients better access to the full range of treatment options that are available to patients in other parts of the country. During my visit to the Renal Unit I was told that steps are at present in train to obtain a resident Consultant Nephrologist to service the NWHB area. Again, I'm calling for the sanctioning of such a position as a priority."

MacManus concluded, ``It is unacceptable to me that our people continue to suffer from inequalities in renal services, despite government promises to rectify this. As for the renal dialysis unit, I plan to monitor the situation, and to hold the NWHB to its most recent commitments made to kidney patients in our region. These patients deserve better.''

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