Tuesday 6 December 2016

Campaigners demand fresh report on cardiac services at Waterford following key data claims

Published 22/09/2016 | 09:56

Health Minister Simon Harris ruled out a second cardiac cath lab for Waterford Hospital
Health Minister Simon Harris ruled out a second cardiac cath lab for Waterford Hospital

Waterford hospital campaigners have demanded a fresh report on cardiac services amid controversy over key data supplied to an independent expert.

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It has now emerged that Prof Niall Herity assessed University Hospital Waterford’s (UHW) need for a second catherisation lab on the basis of disputed figures supplied in relation to Waterford’s catchment area population and the hospital’s risk assessment rating.

Health Minister Simon Harris has staunchly backed Prof Herity’s findings in the Government commissioned report that Waterford does not need a second cath lab.

He also warned there can be no political interference in strategic healthcare planning.

His position was backed by former Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Simon Coveney.

However, UHW doctors, Junior Minister and Independent TD John Halligan and UHW campaigner Kieran Hartley warned that there was now an overwhelming case for a full study review.

Mr Halligan had threatened to resign over the failure to sanction the second cath lab, insisting it had been a key commitment of his agreeing to support the minority Fine Gael Government.

He also expressed fury at the suggestion key Waterford cardiac resources should be transferred to Dublin and Cork.

Two key statistics supplied to Prof Herity have now been challenged by UHW supporters.

UHW’s risk assessment rating was temporarily changed from 20 out of 25 to 16 out of 25 in late August – a rating that Mr Hartley is convinced was critical to the independent review.

The rating had been unchanged since 2012/2013.

The UHW board said it was “appalled” at the temporary change in critical cardiac risk assessment data.

One UHW medic said such a change was “absolutely unprecedented” and queried its timing.

“Serious questions now need to be answered about why critical data was either changed or understated as Prof Herity prepared to conduct his report,” Mr Hartley said.

“Various Government ministers have warned about political interference but my fear is that there has clearly been some kind of interference in relation to Waterford’s case for enhanced cardiac services,” he added.

It has now emerged that UHW was also assessed for its cardiac service needs on the basis of a catchment area population of 280,000 across Waterford, south Kilkenny, Wexford and south Tipperary.

However, one senior UHW doctor, who asked to be unnamed, insisted that the actual catchment area population should be 520,000.

“A population of more than 480,000 was quoted for UHW by senior Fine Gael officials in Oireachtas debates more than five years ago,” he said.

“So we are more than a little confused about where the smaller population catchment area for cardiac services was arrived at.”

UHW campaigners now want Prof Herity to review his findings in light of the two correct statistics.

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