Dear Joe

Three years ago, cystic fibrosis (CF) campaigner Anita Slowey first contacted Joe Duffy on Liveline to stress the need for a purpose-built CF unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital* which would provide en-suite single rooms, to prevent cross-infection from other patients.

In October 2010, having endured a further 3 years of broken promises from the HSE, Anita again emailed Liveline to describe the hospital conditions that she was still in. Her deeply moving email was highly successful in drawing attention to the plight of CF sufferers in Ireland.

Anita wanted to be a journalist, she lived as normal a life as she could but the odds were stacked against her. She died in St. Vincent’s Hospital last Monday, aged just 24 years.

The conditions in which Anita was treated, directly contributed to her death. Cross-infection and multiple infections resulted in the bugs that caused the infections in her body, becoming stronger and harder to fight.

Out of the hundreds of antibiotics used to treat her disease, she ended up only sensitive to one. This is as a direct result of being exposed to other patients and their germs.

The HSE’s abject failure to provide proper isolation facilities, directly cost Anita her life. Yet another failure of our grossly mis-managed health service yet no-one in the HSE will ever be held accountable.

The contract to build a €20m specialised CF unit at St Vincent’s Hospital, with en-suite single rooms for 34 patients, was finally signed last October and the promised unit is due to be completed in April 2012.

While this is too late for Anita, her brave decision to campaign on behalf of CF patients, has ensured that others will not have to suffer the conditions which she endured.

May she rest in peace.

Below is an extract of the email that Anita read out on ‘Liveline’ last year, which has now been put to a piece of music that she loved…

*St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin  is the national referral centre for adult patients with cystic fibrosis.

14 Responses to Dear Joe

  1. Grannymar says:

    Hi, Great to have you back blogging even if the there is a sad tale to tell. RIP Anita.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the unit when completed bore her name.

    • Steph says:

      Thank you, Grannymar.

      I simply couldn’t keep quiet any longer!

      The plight of the adult CF community in Ireland, is something I feel very strongly about and as you know, I’ve blogged about it before.

      Sadly, Anita is only one of many CF patients who will die/have already died as a result of not being treated in isolation when hospitalized.

      Harney and the HSE, have failed utterly in their duty of care to the CF citizens of this State. They should be held accountable for failing to provide a specialised unit when it was strongly advised following the Pollock report in 2005… at the start of Harney’s tenure as Minister for Health!

  2. Annb says:

    I second Grannymar’s sentiments. Such an indictment of our health services. Welcome back.

    • Steph says:

      Thanks, Annb

      It’s good to be back. My sister-in-law recently described the time following a bereavement as being “rather like swimming underwater… all is muted and the pace of life is different.” That fits perfectly!

      I’ve Anita to thank for dragging me out of hibernation as I feel compelled to keep her memory alive. It’s one thing to lose someone who’s had a good innings, but Anita never got that chance. I hope the new Minister for Health will make amends to the CF community.

  3. Lily says:

    Nice to see you back Steph.

    Such a waste of wonderful life. The government should hang their head in shame. We the people should also hang our heads in shame, we voted them in. I just hope things can/will improve …

    • Steph says:

      Hi Lily

      Thanks. I’m just dipping my toes in to see how it feels. Although I missed following what all my blogging friends were up to in recent months, I really enjoyed having more time on my hands to do other things.

      The reality of a diagnosis of CF is that it’s a difficult, chronic condition which usually deteriorates with age and more often than not, results in an early death. CF sufferers have a real battle on their hands just to survive. They shouldn’t haven’t to fight for their right to life as well. Their treatment at the hands of this State, makes me ashamed to be Irish. It’s a national disgrace.

  4. Baino says:

    Such a shame that it takes a death before the authorities listen. We had a campaigner here against James Hardie industries during a big class action against asbestosis, he died for the fight so that others could receive compensation. Very sad.

    • Steph says:

      Baino – Lovely to hear from you.

      As you may have heard, there’s political upheaval going on in Ireland at the moment with a general election due shortly. Our Minister for Health announced her retirement from politics a few weeks ago and has disappeared off the radar with a fat pension. The sooner we get a new regime in place, the better.

  5. jenny says:

    Hi Steph,
    great to hear from you again, I am so glad you’re back as I missed terribly your blogs.

    Once again you have brought to our attention another person who has befallen victim to our health system. CF is a condition that I see around me too much and particurarly among my peers.
    Lets hope things improve following the election,
    Delighted you’re back,

    • Steph says:


      Thank you for your kind welcome back. It’s very encouraging for me to hear that my blog was missed. I hope to be able to get back into the swing of posting regularly but only time will tell on that one.

      I, too, hold great hope for the new administration but I think we may have to wait quite some time before we seen any positive change in the health system. The outlook however, is definitely rosier.

  6. Achelois says:

    I missed your post in my reader. Its late now and had an attack of insomnia which now at 5:41am has abated. I am seeing double and need to sleep. Especially as other half is about to wake and will be annoyed to know that I have been awake all night. Despite your post being sad, I will fall asleep knowing that I will return to read it and take in properly the content and view the linked email.

    So despite the sadness of the post I am pleased to see you here again. I have missed you.

    • Steph says:

      Achelois, thank you.

      Your rest and sleep is what’s paramount here. I hope you did manage a few hours of shut eye.

      I’ve not yet had a chance to catch up with all my favourite blogs to see where everyone is at, but I hope to get there soon!

  7. Roy says:

    I shed a tear when I heard Joe announce her death on his show, a very brave and articulate girl, my daughter met a number of CF patients during her placements in Vincents, normally in geriatric wards, great for the nurses to have someone young to talk to, not great for the generally young CF patients

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