Anger as new €500,000 epilepsy unit lies unused
A FULLY equipped €500,000 specialist epilepsy unit has been lying unused for almost a year because nurses have not been hired to staff it.
More than 200 high risk epilepsy patients have been on waiting lists for up to two years, despite the four bed unit in Cork University Hospital (CUH) being completed.
Chronic epilepsy sufferer, Ciara Murphy (26), from Lehenaghmore, Co Cork, has said she "doesn't have a life" because she can't undergo monitoring in the specialist unit, which would determine if she is suitable for life-changing surgery.
"I'd like to go out on my own, but there is always that fear that something will happen," she said. "If I had the chance of using the unit, at least I'd know if I was a candidate for surgery."
The HSE said it has made "extensive recruitment efforts" to hire staff for the epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU), but they have been unable to do so.
However, sources told the Irish Independent that red tape is behind the delay.
Dr Mike Glynn, CEO of Epilepsy Ireland, said that he was aware of six nurses at CUH who expressed interest in working in the unit, but they have been told they can't leave their posts as there would then be problems filling those positions.
Two of the beds in the EMU are being used for emergency seizure patients, but people who are waiting to see if they are candidates for surgery can't avail of the state of the art services.
The original deadline for the opening of the unit was December 2013, but that date was pushed back to March of this year.
Patients and their families were then left confused in April, when an article was published announcing it had opened.
They subsequently found that this was only for staff training purposes.
Annette Murphy, whose child suffers from epilepsy, said: "I feel like they're making fools out of us. I feel the HSE is neglecting my child," she said.
Mike Glynn, of Epilepsy Ireland, said: "People on these waiting lists are the most high risk epilepsy patients in the country.
"The services provided in the unit are vital and we just need someone to step up and sort it out."
A spokesperson for the HSE said: "It is the intention to have the Unit functioning in 2014".
An estimated 40,000 people suffer from epilepsy in Ireland and 30pc of these cases are considered chronic or severe.