Alice Leahy, Director of TRUST, the health and social service for people who are homeless, today said the increase in the reported cases of TB is especially worrying for people who are homeless, one of the most vulnerable groups in the spread of this disease. This increase also represents a very serious public health problem and vindicates the stand taken by TRUST two years ago in opposing the downgrading of Peamount Hospital as the state’s only specialist national TB treatment centre.

Calling for an urgent national plan to help prevent a major outbreak Alice Leahy said that TRUST has been helping to treat people who are homeless with TB since the organisation was set up over thirty years ago and is acutely aware of how important Peamount Hospital was in helping to control this disease.

“This is a classic case of those in front line caring roles not being heard when they have the first hand experience necessary to really protect public health. However, our concern is that this management failure, unless corrective action is taken, will once again be borne by the most vulnerable. Indeed, the decision to downgrade Peamount was incomprehensible at a time when the disease is beginning to prove resistant to the treatments available. We do not wish to cause any unnecessary alarm but if the State is justified in preparing for the H5N1 virus when it has not even arrived on our shores, surely the case for investing in controlling TB which is already very active in the community is urgent,” Alice Leahy said.