THE main treatment centre for cystic fibrosis has been forced to turn away patients in need of treatment for potentially life-threatening infections.
Five ill patients with the disease had to wait at home yesterday morning because of a lack of beds at St Vincent's hospital in Dublin.
They were refused a bed in the hospital on Monday night, despite needing to be admitted to get specialist antibiotic treatment to combat infections.
Although some were admitted yesterday, the Cystic Fibrosis Association said the hospital was reneging on a written agreement to make beds available to sufferers of the disease.
The organisation's chief executive Philip Watt said the hospital management, along with the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) signed an agreement last July saying that up to 34 beds would be provided when needed.
The beds are in the long-delayed new Nutley wing of the hospital, which people with cystic fibrosis campaigned for over many years.
"There are a total of 100 isolation rooms in this new wing, which was built as a result of campaigning over a period of more than 10 years," Mr Watt said.
He said there were 27 of these rooms occupied by cystic fibrosis patients but five were on a waiting list for admission.
"We were told that one or two rooms would always be available for emergency admissions. But the most beds that have been available to cystic fibrosis patients so far are 28, not 34," he added.
"This is causing anxiety to those waiting for admission and the situation is likely to worsen as the winter progresses so it needs to be sorted now."
The Cystic Fibrosis Association wrote to the hospital and the chief executive of the HSE Tony O'Brien to highlight their concerns.
A spokesman for the hospital said there were 29 cystic fibrosis patients in beds by yesterday evening and one "non-urgent" patient was awaiting admission.
He said the hospital would carry out a review of the process of admission.
"In the meantime, the hospital will continue to prioritise cystic fibrosis patients for admission based on their clinical need and will ensure that critically ill patients are admitted in a timely manner."