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Friday 22 September 2017

Widow of man who died after quitting dialysis says new treatment centre will be 'fantastic, but bittersweet'

Jim Mernagh
Jim Mernagh
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A widow of a man who died after discontinuing dialysis treatment because he "could no longer face the long journeys" says the announcement that Wexford will finally get a dialysis unit is "fantastic, but bittersweet".

Father-of-four Jim Mernagh passed away eight weeks after he stopped travelling to University Hospital Waterford three times a week for dialysis. 

Jim (79) had been enduring the gruelling 148km journey to Waterford since December 2015 when he started his treatment.

Now, after years of planning permission rejections and campaigning, a dialysis unit will finally be built just seven minutes away from his home in Wexford.

The news has been welcomed with open arms, especially by Jim’s widow Alice.

"It's fantastic news – it means people can now have a future," she told Independent.ie.

An artist's impersonation of the new dialysis unit in Wexford
An artist's impersonation of the new dialysis unit in Wexford

"The actual location is fantastic because it is just off the main bypass and all avenues will lead to it. It will help take a lot of pressure off Waterford [hospital]."

At the moment, there are over 60 patients who have to travel to Waterford and Dublin for dialysis, a lot of them elderly people.

Jim, who was also a diabetes sufferer, consulted with his own GP and a palliative care team before he came to his "informed decision" to stop treatment.

"The ironic thing is that the future site is only about seven minutes away from us," Alice reflected.

"I don’t think Jim would have decided so quickly to end it [the treatment] if he had known a dialysis unit was forthcoming, but we’ll never know.

"I suppose I have mixed feelings. His passing made me wake up and come out of my comfort zone and realise that something needed to be done."

The unit, which has been approved by Wexford County Council, will incorporate 14 treatment bays with the capacity to accommodate 35 to 40 patients.

Up to eight medical staff will be employed to administer care.

It is expected to be up and running before the end of the year.

For Alice, she believes the campaigning by people in Wexford played a pivotal role in the unit getting the go-ahead.

"I only came on the scene last July when Jim died and I suppose it was only when Jim went into dialysis that I fully realised the extent of the problem and the upset it is causing in peoples lives.

"It's an area that people don’t understand. I’ve said in the last while, 'Oh it’s great, we’re getting a dialysis unit' and many people aren’t aware of what a difficult treatment it is, so we’re over the moon about the centre."

People require dialysis when they reach the final stage of kidney failure.

The process involves removing waste, salt and extra water from the body to keep it balanced.

Calls for a dialysis unit in the model county began as far back as ten years ago.

Labour Cllr George Lawlor is among those who has long campaigned for the establishment of the Wexford centre.

"We have made contact with the HSE about it a number of times and it's good news that these much-needed facilities will be available before the end of the year," he said.

"It is absolutely vital that the HSE activate this decision as soon as possible and offer some light at the end of this very long tunnel for the people who require dialysis."

In August, Wexford County Council rejected a planning application by Fresenius Medical Care Ireland Ltd to build a dialysis unit in Whitemill Industrial Estate.

It was claimed that the construction of a medical unit in an industrial estate would affect the development of factories in the vicinity.

An Bord Pleanala recently upheld the Council's decision.

Wexford County Council then approved an application by global provider of dialysis treatment, B. Braun Avitum Group, for a new unit to be based at Sinnotstown Lane.

The HSE said at the time, that following legal advice, it had decided to progress a supplementary tender which could be cancelled in the event of a successful appeal by Fresenius.

If the appeal failed, it would allow the badly-needed dialysis unit to be expedited.

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