Wife's 'world is gone... and she's heartbroken' after death of father-to-be on way to hospital
The devastated wife of a father-to-be who died of heart failure on a journey to Cork for emergency treatment has said her "world is gone".
Thomas Power (40) passed away on Sunday after being transferred by ambulance from Waterford University Hospital, because a vital heart centre there was shut for the weekend.
The cath lab at the hospital is only open 9am to 5pm between Monday and Friday.
Mr Power's sister Catherine said the family was devastated, particularly his wife Bernadette.
"She said her world is gone...and she's heartbroken," Catherine told the Irish Independent.
The couple got married in September last year and Bernadette is three months pregnant with their first child.
Mr Power's sister has called for a 24/7 cath lab to be put in place at the hospital in order to prevent further "unnecessary" deaths.
Despite the tragedy, Health Minister Simon Harris has ruled out a second cath lab at the hospital.
However, Mr Harris said that after a mobile cath lab was opened at the hospital and had operated for some time he would "review" the situation.
But any decision would have to be based on clinical advice, he added.
Mr Harris, who was speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Private Hospitals Association in Dublin, said the decision not to install a round-the-clock cath lab for the care and treatment of heart patients was made on clinical grounds and should not be changed for political reasons.
He said he was not aware of the full details of Mr Power's death.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also said it was too early to know the exact circumstances of the Waterford farmer's passing.
He said they would have to await an inquest or a post-mortem to "say precisely what the cause was and whether it could have been prevented... had certain facilities been put in place".
The decision not to give Waterford a second cath lab was made last year after an independent report commissioned by the Department of Health said it was not merited, although existing services should be expanded.
The hospital is to get a mobile cath lab in September but this will not provide a 24/7 service.
- Read more: 'I love you and I'll see you in Cork' - Words of dad-to-be before he died while being transferred between hospitals
The report was carried out by eminent Belfast cardiologist Prof Niall Herity, the minister added.
"I am happy after the mobile lab is there for a period to again review the situation, but I do have to follow the clinical evidence, just as my predecessors did in relation to cancer care or emergency departments.
"If the minister of the day departs from that now well-established precedent, that would be a retrograde step," he said.
Ger O'Callaghan, the chief operations officer for the South/South West Hospital Group, said tender for the mobile lab "should take eight to 10 weeks", with the expectation that the cath lab would be up and running "by September or October".
It will operate 9am-5pm only and not at all at weekends.
It is still unclear how many days a week it will open and its main task is to reduce waiting lists.
Some 230 patients have been referred to the cath lab in Waterford. At the end of May there were 583 patients waiting in Waterford for cath procedures.
Of these, 234 were waiting up to three months, 152 were waiting 3-6 months and 75 were waiting 6-9 months.
Another 15 were waiting 9-12 months and a further 30 were waiting more than a year, and up to two years in some cases.