A BITTER row has erupted between Castleisland CF charity, Build4Life, and management at Cork University Hospital after the HSE reneged on a commitment to provide eight dedicated CF beds in the 20-bed ward which the charity is fully funding.
Founder Joe Browne says he is disgusted that the HSE is now backtracking on its commitment to provide life-saving, isolated facilities for CF patients - the whole reason Build4Life agreed to foot the entire €2.3 million bill for the respiratory ward in the first place. The provision of single, isolated rooms for CF patients is vital in a hospital environment to avoid cross infection of the highly vulnerable patients.
Mr Browne is now refusing to hand over the funds for Ward 5B without a contract that will ring fence eight, single-bed rooms solely for CF patients.
A CUH statement said the hospital had 'never put an absolute figure on the necessary number of CF inpatient beds'. However, Mr Browne rejects this and says it was clearly set out at various meetings with the hospital.
It has also emerged this week that a €400,000 adult out-patient clinic built by the charity on the grounds of CUH may have to be demolished within the next two years because planning permission for the pre-fabricated building was only granted for five years. Mr Browne says he was never made aware of the planning conditions and has since been promised by the HSE that they would 'regularise' the situation.
"How are we supposed to trust them on anything when I only found out by chance about the planning permission issue," he said. "Now they're saying they never agreed to a specific number of beds. For three years I've been asking for a contract to be signed and no cash will be handed over until that is done.
"We agreed to fully fund Ward 5B to the tune of €2.3 million because it was the only way of being guaranteed isolated CF facilities," Mr Browne continued. "The choice we were given was to fund the entire thing and get our CF beds, or don't fund it and get absolutely nothing. Seven years later, we're no further along."
In a statement, the HSE has said that "patients with CF will have priority to these beds at all times and that an additional two inpatient beds will also be available in the Renal Unit in CUH." Mr Browne rubbished the idea of 'priority treatment,' saying that is simply not good enough.
The charity boss says that Build4Life has a moral and legal obligation to CF adults and to the public who helped raise the funds to ensure these beds are ring-fenced. He says he will not hand over money unless that guarantee is put in writing.
"At all times we have to be transparent and ensure that monies raised go towards what we have been fundraising for. The day we hand over the funds for the Adult Respiratory Ward will be a major milestone for Build4Life and is something we have all been working so hard for for so many years, but we cannot be bullied at this last hurdle. Our focus remains on developing life-saving inpatient and outpatient facilities for people with CF."