18 had heart attacks on Waterford waiting list
Eighteen patients suffered heart attacks while on the cardiac waiting list at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) over the past five years.
The revelation came in a special report submitted to the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Department of Health last November in support of a plea for greater resources, including a second catherisation lab at UHW.
A key element of the audit, details of which were obtained by the Irish Independent, was the mounting concern of UHW doctors that waiting times for both inpatient and outpatient cardiac care had been steadily increasing since 2010.
The audit was also submitted to the former Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
UHW is now at the centre of a major row over cardiac resources, with Health Minister Simon Harris insisting that an independent study does not back calls for a second cath lab.
However, UHW campaigners insisted that the report, which was conducted by independent Belfast-based cardiologist Dr Niall Herity, was undermined by the NHS expert being supplied with incorrect data.
UHW campaigner Kieran Hartley claimed the critical-risk register rating for UHW was inexplicably reduced - and the catchment area for the Waterford hospital was understated by a factor of almost 50pc.
The cardiac report submitted last year bluntly warned that some of the heart attacks in patients might have been avoided "if there was no waiting list, or a very short one, which pertains in other centres."
Opposition leader Micheál Martin will visit UHW today.
Mr Hartley, who has lodged a formal complaint with gardaí over the changes to the UHW risk rating, warned that the latest revelations are a matter of major concern.
"In my opinion, this is tangible proof that patient care has been impacted by the lack of resources being provided for UHW and, in particular, for its cardiac services," he said.
"We have incredible doctors here in Waterford but they desperately need better support from the Government and the HSE."
Mr Hartley has also demanded that the terms of reference of the Prof Herity report be published.
The minister has vowed that while UHW will not get a second cath lab, as has been demanded, its cardiac unit will get extra staff, new equipment and longer opening hours.
Mr Harris warned that he was not going to get dragged into a political row over UHW funding.
The HSE rejected suggestions the key UHW risk rating was changed. A spokesperson said: "The 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."