Husband and daughter of late Susie Long at official sod turning for new medical unit in her honour at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny

A PROMISE made in 2007 by Prof Garry Courtney of St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny to Susie Long, who died shortly afterwards, was fulfilled today when the sod was turned on a new medical assessment unit (MAU) at the hospital campus and named in Susie’s honour writes Sean Keane.

A PROMISE made in 2007 by Prof Garry Courtney of St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny to Susie Long, who died shortly afterwards, was fulfilled today when the sod was turned on a new medical assessment unit (MAU) at the hospital campus and named in Susie’s honour writes Sean Keane.

The cancer patient died in 2007 after a delayed diagnosis because she didn’t have a swift colonoscopy. Prof Courtney welcomed Susie’s husband, Conor MacLiam, and daughter Aine to the sod turning performed by Environment Minister Phil Hogan as part of a €13 million plan which has started at the hospital that will also include a new accident and emergency department which will be integrated fully with the MAU to ensure there is never another case like Susie Long’s in Kilkenny.

Prof Courtney said St Luke’s had remained true to its promise that no one requiring an urgent colonoscopy (used to detect bowel cancer and other serious conditions) would have to wait more than four weeks.

The MacLiams were officially welcomed to the hospital by Minister Hogan, who said the tragic circumstances of Susie Long’s delayed diagnosis highlighted the need to decrease waiting lists for an essential diagnostic services such as a colonoscopy and the need to create extra capacity for this and other services to allow prompt diagnosis and patient treatment.

“I can confirm that significant work has been done in the meantime to shorten the waiting list for this service, and currently all urgent colonoscopies are treated within four weeks,” he said.

Minister Hogan took the opportunity to set out his stall for hospital services in the region and said that he would do everything in his power to ensure services were maintained at Kilcreene orthopaedic hospital. “I want to assure the people of Carlow/Kilkenny and the staff at both St Luke’s and Kilcreene hospitals that my firm focus will be, as you would expect, on retaining in the Kilkenny area the existing hospital services at both hospitals and building on the excellent work being carried out at these locations”, he said.

“You can see with this sod-turning ceremony today that it is important to have public representatives in a political role that will influence the outcome of these decisions rather than have hospital services being threatened on a monthly basis,” he added.

He said he was delighted that the new Accident and Emergency Department, Day Care Services unit, Library/Education Centre (part-funded by the University of Limerick, which is providing a contribution of €250,000, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, which is also providing €250,000) and new hospital entrance and concourse were finally going ahead after yeas of planning and would be completed by June 2014.

“The €13 million allocation, which features in the HSE’s Capital Plan, will fund the construction, fitting out and equipping of the new development. St Luke’s General Hospital has developed strong academic links down through the years with the University of Limerick and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the support and commitment in developing the library and the education facilities on the site is most welcome,” he added.

“I understand that the consolidation of library services in Kilkenny will be of benefit not only to all the students and staff on-site at St Luke’s but also to the community, primary care and public health services. The remit of library and education services is to provide access for doctors, nurses and professions allied to medicine (hospital and community) to a comprehensive range of evidence-based, up-to-date knowledge.”