Hundreds of protesters demand 24 hour cardiac unit in South East
Wexford and the entire South East region isn't getting the same level of cardiac care as the rest of the county.
Last Tuesday hundreds of protesters marched on the Dail demanding 24 hour cardiac care for the South East. The march came following the death of Tom Power, who died while being taken to a Cork hospital last month because his local heart unit in Waterford closes at weekends.
Tom's wife Bernadette, who is a native of Murrintown, is expecting the couple's first child.
His death has intensified the campaign for round the clock cardiac care at University Hospital Waterford to serve the south east region.
In May, a month before Tom's death Deputy Brendan Howlin called on the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to ensure a mobile cath lab, which has previously been promised, is in place at the hospital.
However the Taoiseach was unable to give Deputy Howlin a date as to when the mobile cath lab will be put in place in Waterford.
At the time Deputy Howlin said: 'There is enormous concern in the South East about the issue of cardiac care in University Hospital Waterford. An interim solution was announced by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health in January, namely that a second mobile catheterisation laboratory would be provided. That was a solemn commitment made to the people of the south east but to date it has not happened.
'The South East is the only region in the country that does not have 24 hour cardiac catheterisation laboratory facilities.'
Speaking following the protest march last Tuesday when Tom's sister, Catherine Power, addressed a number of politicians Deputy Howlin said 'there is no doubt that the South East region is entitled to the same level of cardiac care as the rest of the country.
'It demonstrably doesn't have that at the moment. A 24-7 cardiac unit is needed at University Hospital Waterford. I understood from previous government commitments that at the very least the hours at the current cath lab would be substantially increased and a mobile cath lab be provided on a temporary basis. To date that hasn't happened.
'The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said that the mobile cath lab has been tendered for now and when that's done the mobile service will be provided and then the situation will be reviewed to determine the need for a second permanent cath lab.
'Everything is being long fingered and reviewed over and over again.
'My clear view which is also the view of cardiac physicians across the South East including those in Wexford is that the need for the service in the South East is unanswerable.'
Deputy Howlin said that he had met people from across all five counties of the South East at the march last Tuesday.
'People were very committed to the need for the service at University Hospital Waterford. It's a big issue for people and it's an important issue that needs to be resolved.
'It's surely not a matter of money because the money involved isn't very large.
'As it is a new mortuary costing €4million is being built at Waterford Hospital. Anyone in their normal mine would believe that prioritising the living over the dead should be the top priority.'
Last Tuesday Tom's sister Catherine met a number of politicians at Leinster House although the Taoiseach and Minister for Health Simon Harris weren't present.
Catherine Power said her brother was in a' cold grave' because 'the doors were locked' on the catheterisation lab at Waterford Hospital when he needed help.
Last year, a Government-commissioned report by Belfast-based cardiologist Niall Herity recommended against expanding the service, and said emergency cardiac patients should be treated in Dublin or Cork.
Waterford Institute of Technology lecturer Ray Griffin told the politicians present that an average of 6.3 people a year will die in the southeast because of the lack of a 24/7 cardiac service in the region.
Mr Griffin said the anger in the South East about the Herity report was well-founded. He questioned whether the report should have been written by 'a UCD graduate working one hour from Dublin' whose employer had service ties with the HSE.
He said important stakeholders had not been consulted and the report had relied on British data that was applicable only in the UK.
Deputy Howlin said Tom's death had given fresh impetus to the long running campaign for the provision of 24 hour cardiac care in the South East.
'I met with Catherine Power, Tom Power's sister. She was very emotional and very distressed as you can expect and her pain was very real. The thought that he (Tom) could be alive today if the facilities were there is heartbreaking.
'Nobody can say definitively that he would have survived but there is a very real belief that he would have. The devastation that the Power family must be experiencing doesn't bare thinking about and fact that he left behind a pregnant wife is heartbreaking.
'There is no doubt that Tom's tragic death has pushed the need for a 24 hour cardiac unit at Waterford back up the agenda and today (Tuesday) all the TD's of the South East from across all the parties will table a motion calling for this.'
New Ross Standard