'The closed cath lab stacked odds against Una'
The family of a woman who died when vital treatment was delayed in University Hospital Waterford after she suffered three heart attacks believes the odds were stacked against her surviving the emergency.
Una McDermott, a well known lecturer in horticulture in Waterford Institute of Technology, was met with a closed cath lab at the hospital when she suffered an acute cardiac event on Sunday, March 4.
The cath lab, which could perform emergency stenting to help keep her arteries open, only operates office hours Monday to Friday. Ms McDermott's only hope was to make it to Cork University Hospital on time.
Her grieving sister Eva Creely said yesterday: "I don't know if Una would have survived but her odds would obviously have been better if the cath lab was open."
The nightmare that followed saw Ms McDermott transferred in an ambulance for the 15-minute journey to the local airport in a bid to get her airlifted by helicopter to Cork.
However, Ms Creely said she suffered another heart attack en route and had to be brought back to the hospital and placed in intensive care.
She said the necessity to transport a patient to the airport, rather than having access to a helicopter at the hospital, adds to the delay.
"Una was fitted with a stent the following morning when the cath lab opened."
However, she suffered irreparable brain damage and died three weeks later.
Ms Creely explained: "Una was an expert in her field.
"She trained in the Botanic Gardens and was involved in the restoration of the War Memorial in Islandbridge.
"She was originally from Dublin but re-located to Carrick-on-Suir and loved it, setting up the degree programme in the college."
Ms Creely, from Clontarf in Dublin, said the cath lab should be operational on a 24/7 basis, otherwise more lives may be lost.
"You are talking about a service for people across the whole of the south east.
"It means if you get a heart attack at 1am the cath lab will not be available to you.
The roads from Waterford to Cork are another obstacle and the patient is in a race against time.
"There is a personal cost, but also the cost of losing someone with the expertise of Una that is never factored in," she said.
The hospital declined to comment on the case yesterday.
A Department of Health commissioned report rejected a call for a second cath lab at the hospital two years ago.
A mobile cath lab has been installed to reduce the waiting list of patients who are in need of planned procedures.
But it will be removed in June.