Pulmonary Hypertension Unit

The President's speech

Remarks by President McAleese at the official opening of the National Pulmonary Hypertension Unit, Mater Hospital, 4th September 2007

I am delighted to have been invited to open the National Pulmonary Hypertension Unit here at the Mater Hospital, the latest Mater initiative in its long tradition, dating back to 1861, of providing first-class medical care for the people of Ireland. As patron of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association it gives me particular pleasure to perform this task today, for it is reassuring evidence of the energetic development of services for those living with PH.

When it opened in 2003, the then Pulmonary Hypertension Unit of the Mater Hospital heralded a new era in PH disease management in Ireland. Under the direction of Dr Sean Gaine who had previously directed the PH unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the Unit at the Mater was established as a referral and treatment centre for persons suffering from PH in Ireland. The opening of the Unit offered immediate respite to patients, who had previously to travel to the UK for treatment. That significant step is now complemented and built on with today’s national unit.

It is good news for PH sufferers, for while the condition is thankfully rare, it is debilitating, progressive and severely compromising of quality of life. Until recently patients faced the prospect of very poor prognosis, but the past decade has seen remarkable improvements in therapeutic options, thanks to the professionals in the field who have driven randomised clinical trials including here in this Unit which is, thanks to its excellence, an established and active designated site for international PH trials. Since 2002, four new treatment modalities have received approval for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension in Ireland, bringing hope to patients and their families and bringing hope also to those professionals who have made this field their vocation. And there have been other milestones on the way to today’s improved story – the appointment of the first Pulmonary Hypertension Clinical Nurse Manager, Sinead Doherty, in 2003; the appointment in 2004, in conjunction with the National Heart and Lung Programme, of a Pulmonary Hypertension Pharmacist, Maria Creed; the launch of an Echo Screening Programme with Dr Doug Veale, Consultant Rheumatologist at St Vincent’s Hospital in 2005 to assist in early detection of pulmonary hypertension; the development of a set of national referral guidelines in 2004 in line with new international guidelines; the establishment of a national database to assist in clinical trial recruitment to facilitate research on the epidemiology of PH; the establishment of a registered charity, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, and the launch of an excellent website, available via the Mater’s main website, containing a host of educational material and links.

There is a restless energy, a focus and a commitment at work here which deserves our thanks just as it evokes our respect and pride. I am delighted to be able to pay tribute to the men and women who are the hands and hearts and brains behind this story especially to Dr Gaine and the rest of the Unit, to Sinead Doherty, Maria Creed and Deirdre Clerkin, and to the cardiac care provided by Dr Kevin Walsh and Rhona Savage. To all who provide this service and who keep improving it, I wish you continued fulfilment and continued success. To the patients who are such an essential part of the life of the unit I say also a huge thank you. Faced with serious illness you take part in the clinical trials and treatment which push out the boundaries of our global knowledge about this disease, you help chart the information which helps the newly diagnosed and their families come to terms with what is ahead of them, you give help and support to one another and you will the professionals on to keep researching, keep questioning, keep trying to improve the outcome for PH patients. We are very lucky in this country to have such a great medical team and such a fluent partnership with patients. The National Pulmonary Hypertension Unit is a place you who sustain and support it can be rightly proud of. It is also a place we can all take pride in as a people with an abiding interest in our health services and an ambition to ensure they are they very best they can be.

It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to declare open the National Pulmonary Hypertension Unit, and to wish you every success in your future work.