Friday 15 November 2019

Woman whose brother died on way to hospital from complications after 'silent heart attack' pleads for better cardiac services at anniversary vigil

Catherine Power sister of Thomas at the vigil for 24/7 cardiac service at University hospital Waterford. Photo:Mary Browne
Catherine Power sister of Thomas at the vigil for 24/7 cardiac service at University hospital Waterford. Photo:Mary Browne
Catherine Power sister of Thomas at the vigil for 24/7 cardiac service at University hospital Waterford. Photo: Mary Browne

Ralph Riegel

A woman whose brother died while being transferred from Waterford to Cork for a heart procedure has used a special first anniversary vigil to plead for better cardiac services in the south east.

Catherine Power admitted the past year has been "a total nightmare" for her family.

Her brother, Thomas (40), died in an ambulance en route to Cork after attending University Hospital Waterford (UHW) with a suspected heart attack.

UHW was unable to provide major cardiac intervention and he was referred to Cork University Hospital (CUH) some 130km  away.

Bernadette Power and the late Thomas Power.
Bernadette Power and the late Thomas Power.

Catherine has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warning that people will continue to lose their lives until the south east gets round-the-clock cardiac services.

She admitted her family were left devastated when her brother died en route from UHW to CUH on June 18 2017 for emergency treatment after he suffered a so-called 'silent heart attack.'

Mr Power died from a large 3cm rupture in his cardiac wall brought on by 'a silent heart attack' sustained between three and seven days earlier.

A coroner's inquest jury last April returned a verdict of death by natural causes - but issued a recommendation that Health Minister

Simon Harris review resuscitation drug packs provided in ambulances for patient transfers between hospitals.

The recommendation came after it emerged the ambulance transferring Mr Power ran out of special adrenalin doses during the trip from Waterford to Cork.

Despite the south east region having a catchment of 500,000 people, the UHW catherisation lab only operates from 9am to 5pm between Monday to Friday.

Major cardiac surgeries also cannot be undertaken in Waterford - with patients having to be transferred to Dublin, Cork or Galway. Catherine Power warned she does not want any other family to suffer their loss and issued a plea at her brother's vigil for an upgrading of cardiac facilities at UHW.

"How many people must die before the Government decides on providing 24/7 emergency cardiac services in UHW," she said?

Ms Power has written to Mr Varadkar asking when a decision will be made on upgrading cardiac services in the south east - and why "the usual in this country is lets be reactive rather than proactive."

"A report by Prof Kieran Daly of the Acute Coronary Syndrome Programme in November 2017 found there were an expected 203 STEMI heart attacks in the south east per annum which is 53 cases more than what the British Cardiac Society sets as the level for a 24/7 centre," she wrote.

"You might let me know (what is planned) as it is 12 months since this State failed my brother Thomas Power to ensure patient safety was in place instead this State allowed him to be distressed further by putting him in the back of ambulance to travel on some of the worst roads in Ireland," she declared.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Power's wife, Bernadette, revealed she had only been married to Tom for seven months - and had been pregnant with their first child when he died on June 18 2017.

Mrs Power gave birth to her baby boy, Thomas Junior, on November 22, five months after her husband's death.

"On September 17 2016 when I married Tom I never thought I would be attending the inquest into his death."

"I would now urge the Government to improve cardiac services in the south east region and to reconsider the provision of a second permanent cath lab at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) to serve the people of the south east on a 24/7 basis."

Waterford health campaigner Kieran Hartley said it was "outrageous" that a city like Waterford, the hub of a rapidly expanding south east region, does not have a 24-7 cath lab and is not be able to undertake major cardiac procedures.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has already backed the campaign to upgrade south east cardiac services as has Mick Wallace TD and a number of other TDs.

However, Ms Power warned that she expects every TD in the south east to back UHW's campaign for extra cardiac resources.

"I want all TDs to remember that the human heart beats 24/7 - and not from 9am to 5pm."

Marches in support of improved cardiac services have taken place over the past 12 months in Waterford, several attended by thousands of campaigners.

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