We cannot give you the oxygen your three-year-old daughter needs as her quota for the month has been used up.
That was the message that left Carrigaline man Diarmuid Dorney in shock — and in fear for his daughter Sarah’s future quality of life.
The toddler, who suffers from lung problems, has been receiving oxygen since undergoing a tracheotomy operation when she was six months old. Sarah needs to use portable oxygen cylinders when outside.
As she got older Sarah has become more energetic and, like all toddlers, enjoys running around and playing outside. When Diarmuid phoned up the suppliers of the cylinders, Air Products, to make an order he was told Sarah had used up her monthly quota — an issue that had never arisen before.
“They told me Sarah had already used six cylinders for the month so I could not get any more until August. I was in shock. This would mean she would be house-bound for 10 days.”
Oxygen is prescribed to people who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, cystic fibrosis, asthma or other lung disorders. Until now, patients have been able to ring up their oxygen-cylinder provider and order the number they needed.
However, under new stringent measures introduced by the Health Service Executive (HSE), a quota of six cylinders a month has been put in place. To get more than that, a consultant must write a letter detailing why they are needed.
This then needs to be sent to the local Primary, Community and Continuing Care HSE office which grants the final approval.
Diarmuid said: “I managed to see Sarah’s consultant straight away and they now have a letter saying she needs to get 10 cylinders a month which should be enough.
“There should be no problem now in getting them — but you never know.
“If we had known about this beforehand we could have had this sorted before Sarah ran out of cylinders. I can’t understand why they made us do this. It is not as if we were selling the cylinders — she needs them to go outdoors.”
Mum Maria said the ordeal had been very stressful.
Sarah is not the only person affected by the change in procedures. Cllr Kenneth O’Flynn has been approached by two people who have been similarly impacted.
One is an elderly man who used to use 24 cylinders a month as every day he would make the journey to visit his late wife’s grave. Now he must limit himself to six a month, unless he can meet the new requirements. Cllr O’Flynn said: “Nobody should be prevented from getting the oxygen they need. If there is new regulations in place then those who need these cylinders should not be left without them.”
While the Dorneys say they received no communication about the change, a spokeswoman for Air Products said they wrote to all affected: “Patients were informed if they use up to six cylinders per month, then there would be no change to the service.
“If they used more than six cylinders per month, then any requirement for additional cylinders would need to be officially approved by the local HSE Primary, Community and Continuing Care office on the back of a letter from their doctor or clinician.”
The HSE confirmed this in a statement. Asked why the change in procedure was introduced, a spokesman said: “The request is a formality. A consultant request for additional tanks is nearly always on the grounds of medical/clinical need. A patient cannot request additional tanks directly.”