Isolation unit for CF patients delayed
AN isolation unit promised for a new national centre for cystic fibrosis patients at St Vincent's hospital in Dublin has been delayed again after a difficulty arose over the contract to build it.
Developer Bernard McNamara was executive chairman at contractors Michael McNamara & Co, the lowest bidder for the €40m unit.
Mr McNamara stepped down from his post in January and the company says it was not told it had won the contract until April 23.
The new unit was to open this year after revelations that cystic fibrosis sufferers in the Republic who have to share wards have half the life expectancy of patients in the North.
It has also emerged that both the HSE and the hospital are still refusing to dedicate 34 beds in the proposed 100-bed unit at St Vincent's for the sole use of cystic fibrosis patients.
In 2008, the HSE agreed to improve conditions for cystic fibrosis patients and promised a new unit would open at St Vincent's in Dublin in 2010.
Health Minister Mary Harney said that developers tendering to build the new unit would not be paid until after the project was completed.
Last year, St Vincent's confirmed that a number of contractors had tendered and it expected building to begin by October or November.
The lowest bidder was Michael McNamara & Co, where developer Bernard McNamara was executive chairman until January. But the company says it only received a letter from St Vincent's saying it had won the contract on April 23, four months after the tender was submitted.
Michael McNamara & Co insists it is not responsible for the delay and that the main hold-up was caused by St Vincent's and the HSE in appointing a contractor.
However, it has since emerged that St Vincent's is now discussing the project with the contractor who submitted the second-lowest bid.
The latest delay has further worried cystic fibrosis patients and their families as conditions in Irish hospitals remain the worst in Europe.
Sources at the Department of Health yesterday said an announcement about a new contractor for the €40m project could be made as soon as next week.
A statement from St Vincent's hospital yesterday pointedly reiterates that cystic fibrosis patients will not get the 34-bed dedicated unit for their national centre.
The statement says: "We are confident that this process (negotiations with the second bidder) will be brought to a conclusion very shortly. The site at the hospital is cleared and ready for construction to commence."
It goes on to say that the building in question is a new ward block comprising 120 replacement beds in single en-suite accommodation.
"The development will provide flexibility to accommodate differing patient cohorts such as cystic fibrosis and liver transplant and will be used by St Vincent's University Hospital i.e. the public hospital."