Is maith an rud é go bhfuil deis agam an cheist rí-thábhachtach seo a ardú. Baineann an cheist le páistí atá faoi chúram Ospidéal Mhuire do Leanaí, Cromghlinn. The children we are discussing are at major risk of infection through Ireland's most common life-threatening inherited disease, namely, cystic fibrosis. These, more than many other children in hospital wards, are at major risk if their environment is contaminated. Everybody, from the medical to the lay person, will understand the need to ensure those who suffer from cystic fibrosis and who have had to be hospitalised have proper sterile environments so they can recover in a short time to allow them to carry on as normal a life as possible for as long as possible.
Moving children at 6 p.m. on Fridays from a sterile environment in St. Michael's ward, which is dedicated to treating those children who are unlucky enough to have cystic fibrosis, into St. Joseph's ward, which has children with other ailments, puts their lives at risk. It is not good enough to state, as has been stated, that housing these children in single rooms will suffice. That not true and it is a cop-out.
This is about cost-cutting and shaving a few euro off the HSE budget. I have not heard of Professor Drumm shaving money off his wages or his bonus. Despite the Trojan work of the staff of Crumlin children's hospital, the nurses and doctors must suffer not only this cut but also a number of others which occurred during recent months and which I have tried to raise in the House. Porters have been let go. The orthopaedic service now works part time from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Phones are left unmanned for entire days and, in one case, for almost two weeks because of HSE cost-cutting. The chaplaincy service has been reduced from a 24-hour service to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dieticians have also suffered.
Cutbacks have occurred across the board at Crumlin children's hospital. This cutback has been aimed at the most vulnerable children, namely, those at risk of cross-infection. Consider the risk involved in these children going to hospital in the first place given the other infections we have heard so much about, such as MRSA, and this increases the chance they will not come out of hospital alive. That is not good enough.
Major steps must be taken to ensure that at least this cutback is reversed so that the advances we have made in Ireland and throughout the world to extend the life expectancy of people who have inherited this disease are not reversed for the sake of a few measly euro.
Those with cystic fibrosis suffer in terms of their lung capacity and digestive system. The result of this is that sufferers are prone to constant chest infections and malnutrition. Most try to live a normal life but they must regularly attend hospital to regain the ability to breathe by themselves. Putting their lives at risk by forcing two hospital wings to coalesce at weekends is not good enough. I have not heard of any cutback in the private health service and that alone says it all.