Doctors tell of risk to patients in South East
Patients with serious heart conditions are in danger of dying while they wait for vital cardiac procedures, senior doctors from the south east have warned.
The group of consultants, who are based in Waterford Hospital, outlined their grave concerns at a press conference in Dublin yesterday.
The conference was being held in the wake of a Government-commissioned report which turned down the hospital's request for a second catheterisation lab - where patients with heart disease are treated.
The report sparked a major political row as Independent Alliance Junior Minister John Halligan threatened to resign.
The doctors yesterday indicated their frustration that the need for a second lab, recognised by the HSE to reduce clinical risk in 2013, has been overshadowed by the "political story". The matter has focused on the "to-ing and fro-ing" between Mr Halligan and the Government while this was a health and patient welfare issue, they insisted.
Cardiologist Dr Patrick Owens said the existing lab cannot cope with demand, and 581 sick patients who need procedures such as angioplasty are waiting 18 months to over a year, with people from Wexford suffering the longest waits. The current lab, which can only operate from 9am-5pm, is lying "quiet and dark" as patients who have suffered a heart attack "take their chances in the back of an ambulance" and must be ferried to Cork or Dublin.
The doctors said the Government-commissioned Herity Report was flawed because it underestimated the population served by Waterford Hospital and the patients who have to travel elsewhere. "It has led to dangerously low population estimates," said Dr Owens.
Currently, patients with chest pain who are admitted to the hospital are waiting 10 days for an angiogram, an X-ray study of their blood vessels, that should be done in 48 hours.
Health Minister Simon Harris has refused to meet the doctors about the report. He plans to visit Waterford Hospital and will speak to them then.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Shane Ross has signed off on an €870,000 funding deal for Independent Alliance colleague Mr Halligan's local airport.
However, although his department has earmarked funds for the improvement of safety and security facilities at Waterford Airport, it won't receive a cent until it can secure a scheduled air service.