The number of nurses working in the area of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) needs to be doubled, the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn's Disease (ISCC) has said.
IBD refers to the conditions Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. There is no known cause or cure and some 40,000 Irish people are affected.
The conditions have similar symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss. Left uncontrolled, symptoms may flare up, causing severe abdominal pain and frequent visits to the bathroom. If parts of the colon become too inflamed, patients may need surgery and a life-long colostomy bag.
According to the ISCC, the numbed of specialist IBD nurses needs to be doubled, from 14 to 28, which would be in line with best international practice.
It pointed to a previous survey by the Irish Society of Gastroenterologists, which found that a lack of dedicated specialist nurses in Ireland was the biggest barrier to the delivery of good patient care.
That survey also revealed that 45% of hospitals nationwide had no specialist IBD nurse for patients.
Over six months ago, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, met with a delegation from the ISCC, who presented him with a petition calling for the number of specialist nurses to be doubled. At the time, he said he could not see a reason why this request could not be accommodated. However since then, not one additional IBD nurse has been hired.
"When we first received the positive response from Minister Harris to our call for the doubling of specialist IBD nurses in Irish hospitals, we couldn't have been happier. Putting those 14 additional nurses in place will make a significant difference to the 40,000+ people living with IBD in Ireland. That is why we cannot let this matter drop," commented ISCC chairperson, Bruno Lucas.
He explained that specialist IBD nurses provide detailed advice on treatment for the condition, including how to cope on a day-to-day basis. However, not all IBD patients can access this level of care.
The ISCC has reactivated its petition and is encouraging the public to sign it. It has also launched a clock on its website, which is counting upwards from the day of its meeting with Minister Harris - November 16, 2017. This clock will remain live until the 14 additional nurses are in place.
"If you are living with IBD, every day counts. So we will continue to count the days until this modest increase in the number of specialist nurses is delivered. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long before solid progress is made and we can stop the clock on this initiative," Mr. Lucas added.
The petition can be signed here
For more information on the ISCC, click here