Friday 23 March 2018

Gardaí set to probe alteration in risk rating at Waterford hospital

Complaint: Waterford campaigner Kieran Hartley
Complaint: Waterford campaigner Kieran Hartley
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Gardaí are to be asked to investigate how a critical change in University Hospital Waterford's (UHW) key risk rating assessment was made.

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.

The Waterford hospital now faces the loss of key cardiac services and potential funding to Dublin and Cork.

Campaigner and European Parliament candidate Kieran Hartley confirmed he is to lodge a formal complaint with Waterford gardaí today once he has obtained legal advice.

"This isn't just an issue of public safety, though clearly it has huge significance in that regard," he said.

"This also potentially amounts to deception because a critical public health document was changed without reference to the people responsible for compiling it.

"My understanding is that the person believed to have made the temporary data change did not have the authority to do it."

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

Mr Hartley said he wants to take legal advice on whether, if public funds are allocated on the basis of the altered information, it could also amount to fraud.

The hospital board said it was "appalled" at the temporary change in critical cardiac risk assessment data.

One medic said such a change was "absolutely unprecedented" and queried its timing.

The HSE has said the risk rating for cardiac procedures has not been changed for University Hospital Waterford.

The current national data matches UHW's own rating.

However, Waterford campaigners said the HSE was referring to the internal rating and not the temporary change which was made to data available nationally.

This data was temporarily altered in August.

The Irish Independent understands that three senior medical officials at UHW are now reviewing their positions because they are so disgusted over how the hospital was treated with the cardiac services review.

On Saturday, more than 2,000 people marched through Waterford city centre to express their fury at the way the local cardiac services were handled.

Mr Hartley insisted that initial indications are that the data change was done by an individual who is not a clinician and who did not have the authority to make the alteration without consultation.

It is believed that the altered data, as well as a radical understating of the population in the catchment area, was then supplied to an independent, Belfast-based expert.

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.

Campaigners are demanding that Dr Niall Herity, who assessed the need for a second catherisation lab, be asked to review his findings in light of the data revelations.

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

However, campaigners are now challenging Mr Harris to consider the implications of the data changes.

Irish Independent

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