Wednesday 29 March 2017

Detective investigating complaint about alleged temporary change to hospital's risk rating

University Hospital Waterford
University Hospital Waterford
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

GARDAÍ have appointed a detective sergeant to investigate a complaint over how an alleged change was made to University Hospital Waterford’s risk rating.

The alteration, which was made outside Waterford and without the knowledge of UHW clinicians, is feared to have been a critical component in the subsequent decision by an independent expert not to sanction an expansion of strategic cardiac services at Ardkeen.

UHW will not get a second catherisation lab on the foot of the independent report.

UHW campaigner and European Parliament candidate, Kieran Hartley, lodged a formal complaint with Waterford Gardaí over the alleged risk register change.

Mr Hartley met with senior gardaí at Ballybricken Garda Station.

A detective sergeant is now handling the matter. UHW issued a statement last week which said they were “appalled” by the revelation the register had been temporarily changed.

UHW officials insisted they were not consulted on the change.

“This isn’t just an issue of public safety though clearly it has huge significance in that regard,” Mr Hartley said.

He said he believed the register alteration, and the understating of UHW’s catchment area population from 520,000 to 280,000, represented critical data changes.

Mr Hartley said he is convinced the incorrect data was then supplied to independent expert Prof Niall Herity.

“It is patently obvious that any report based on that data should be now be reviewed,” he said.

Experts stressed that a risk rating is arguably the single most important data assessed for a hospital.

UHW’s rating was temporarily dropped from 20 out of 25 to 16 out of 25 in August.

The higher a risk rating, the greater the probability of adverse patient outcomes – and the stronger a hospital case for extra resources.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has said the risk rating for cardiac procedures has not been changed for UHW.

“The South South West Hospital Group (SSWHG) risk rating for the interventional cardiology services at UHW is 16. This rating has not changed in the past six months,” a HSE spokesperson said.

“In determining the risk associated with any issue, health managers look at the impact and likelihood of the risk, in accordance with the HSE risk matrix. Scores between 15 and 25 are considered high risk.”

“Both the hospital and the group categorised this issue as high risk. The difference between both relates only to a slight variation in how the impact associated with the risk is interpreted.”

“The hospital interpreted the impact as extreme, as it has only one cardiology unit on site. The group interpreted the impact as major, as it has access to other cardiology units within the group should the need arise.”

Junior Minister and Waterford TD John Halligan had threatened to resign over the failure to sanction the second catherisation lab, insisting it had been a key commitment of his agreeing to support the minority Fine Gael Government.

But Health Minister Simon Harris rejected the register claims.

“I don’t actually believe that the risk register has been changed at all in the last six months. I am trying to seek some clarity on this,” he said.

“I believe the way that risk was categorised both at the hospital and at hospital group level may have been somewhat different.”

“However I can say very clearly that this did not have an impact on Prof Herity's report. I have met Prof Herity - he went in independently as a clinical expert in this area, he engaged with clinicians in Waterford, he looked at all the data and he made his decision.”

“I stand over the Prof (Niall) Herity report and that is why I published it in full.”

“You could not have got a more independent review than that of Prof Herity. I have published that review in full.”

Mr Harris said the Government will now fully deliver on Prof Herity’s recommendations that Waterford’s cardiac unit should secure greater staffing, new equipment and longer opening hours.

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