Five cystic fibrosis (CF) patients have been turned away from a dedicated unit to treat sufferers of the life-threatening disease, it has been claimed.
The Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland (CFAI) said just 27 beds at the specialist facility are occupied with CF patients, despite health chiefs committing to set aside 34.
Philip Watt, chief executive, said five patients have been sent home from the new wing at St Vincent's University Hospital in south Dublin and told to wait until someone is discharged.
"Over the past week there has been up to seven waiting for a room," he said. "This is completely unacceptable and is jeopardising the health of our patients."
CF is an inherited disease that primarily affects the lungs and the digestive system. Ireland has the highest proportion of patients in the world, with one in 19 people said to carry one copy of the altered gene that causes it.
The battle for the new unit started in 2000, with 100 isolation rooms finally opening in the new Nutley wing of the hospital in August.
Mr Watt said the management of the hospital signed a written agreement with the CFAI, Department of Health and Health Service Executive that up to 34 beds would be provided for people with the condition when needed. Most CF patients spent two to four weeks, or longer, in hospital at a time.
"At present there are 27 inpatient rooms occupied by CF patients and five on the waiting list," he continued. "This is causing anxiety to those waiting for admission. This situation is likely to worsen as the winter progresses and needs to be sorted now."
The CFAI claimed there is at least one general ward lying idle elsewhere in St Vincent's, while there are also rooms free in the old private patient hospital.
Campaigner and Independent TD Finian McGrath said he was dismayed and shocked that CF patients were being sent home. "These patients need support yet there were no beds in the new 22 million euro cystic fibrosis unit," he said.