Northern Ireland

Parents 'appalled' at cystic fibrosis unit closure

Parents of children with cystic fibrosis are "appalled" at the Belfast Health Trust's decision to shut a dedicated unit for adolescents.

Cherry Tree House, which is based at the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children, was built 25 years ago from private funds.

The trust said this was a refurbishment and the unit was not closing.

The plan is to take away the dedicated beds and offer them to parents of all sick children.

Three side wards would be available on a priority basis to those with cystic fibrosis, but only at the ward sister's discretion.

Dr Paul Jackson, a consultant paediatrician and clinical director in the Belfast Trust, stressed the unit was not closing.

"Cherry Tree House is part of a general medical ward. The whole area is old and needs upgrading. When we got the go-ahead to do that, we asked the architects to come up with upgrading plans.

"We needed to look at the three bedrooms within Cherry Tree House. One of the problems is nursing that area. From the risk point of view, it was important to bring those rooms into the main ward area."

Dr Jackson said the trust believed that what was being offered was improved facilities.

"It's our view that the facilities for cystic fibrosis families are being upgraded. These are much improved rooms, there is an upgraded gymnasium area, extra clinical areas and additional parental accommodation."

However, parents of those with cystic fibrosis are concerned about the changes and what it means for families.

Rab Gardiner's daughter, Rebecca, 14, uses Cherry Tree House.

"It's so important for Rebecca who's 14. The problem is we need all the support we can get as parents. When she falls sick we ring the hospital and, automatically, we know we can get a bed within Cherry Tree House."

Mr Gardiner added: "The work needs to be done, it needs refurbished. We are delighted to see it done. We are very disappointed with the lack of consultation with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and with the parents.

"We knew nothing until the end of October when we were given six weeks to consult with parents and staff... In my view that isn't long enough.

"I am very angry and so are a lot of parents. We need this facility, it is a must for us. I wish we had been consulted."

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