Wexford woman told she’d have to wait 15 months to be fitted with heart monitor
A Wexford woman has lodged an official complaint with the HSE after being told that she would have to wait 15 months to explore a worrying heart issue. The woman and her husband, who wish to remain anonymous, feel that a lack of available cardiac services in Wexford and lengthy waiting lists could result in fatal consequences for those who are unable to afford private healthcare.
Despite being an active and healthy 60 year-old, the woman began to feel strange some five weeks ago now.
"Basically, I was having these strange fluctuations and palpitations in my chest,” she explained. “It was accompanied by a strange cough and I felt quite tired all the time as well. I just really felt off.”
When she finally decided to call the CareDoc, the woman was told to get herself to the Emergency Department right away.
"They did bloods and an x-ray and sent me home saying that a letter would be sent to my GP,” she said. “I heard nothing after a few days and got in touch with our doctor, who said that he had heard nothing either. Eventually, we rang the hospital and were told that it would require ‘further investigation’ and that I would require an echo and a heart monitor. Having taken a week to get to that point, we were then told that I’d be 15 months on a waiting list for a heart monitor.”
The lady and her husband were in disbelief. Despite her symptoms being deemed serious enough to rush to the Emergency Department, she was essentially being sent home to wait over a year for exploratory work to be carried out to get to the bottom of it. Her husband was furious.
"I immediately lodged a complaint with the HSE,” he said. “It's one thing if they can’t provide the service, but they could at least be up front and say that. A nurse liaison eventually rang on foot of the complaint and agreed it was ‘terrible’ but there was nothing they could do. In relation to going private, we were told that was up to ourselves, but realistically the only other option to receive treatment was to keep presenting at A&E.”
When they asked about seeing Wexford cardiologist Dr Aidan Buckley privately, the couple received a letter saying that Dr Buckley would not be taking on any new patients this year.
"Essentially, we were left with no options of being seen in Wexford this side of Christmas,” the husband said. “We were told that there was only one cardiologist and he was stretched to the limit. They simply don’t have the services to offer people. I told them that they could at least make people aware of that fact in the first place. If they can’t provide the service, they should just hold their hands up and say that. Don’t just send people home to wait indefinitely. Eventually, there's going to be a fatality as a result of that approach.”
Unwilling to gamble on waiting any longer and with the lady still feeling discomfort, they opted to go down the private healthcare route. However, they acknowledge this is not a route open to everyone.
"We were then put in touch with Whitfield about going private,” the patient said. “I asked what if we weren’t able to afford that, what would happen then? She said I’m one of the lucky ones. But health shouldn’t be a matter of luck.”
With things having gotten worse since, the couple took the decision to attend the emergency department at the private Beacon Hospital and are now awaiting further instruction. Five or six weeks and close to €1,000 later, they finally feel like they're edging closer to finding out what the issue is.
"If we weren’t in a position where we could pay that money, we’d be waiting 15 months to start this process and that's just not acceptable in my view,” the husband said. “I’m just really angry about the whole thing. It seems the system is very poorly managed, despite the fact that these could be matters of life and death."
Adding insult to injury, the couple have received two letters in the post informing them that they owe the hospital €100 following the initial visit to the Emergency Department.
"They had the neck to threaten us with legal action and debt collectors then,” he revealed. “We had three letters looking for payment of €100. I can tell you, if the medical staff were as meticulous as the accounts department, we'd have a far better health service.”
"The irony of all this is that during Covid, Stephen Donnelly etc were constantly urging people not to avoid presenting at hospital if they had a genuine emergency, specifically mentioning heart issues. Well, when you do go to the hospital, you don’t get the treatment anyway. The facilities are not there. I think the PR message is all wrong. They say ‘ensure you get treatment if you need it’. But that's not the reality on the ground. It's just not there.”
"Families will end up grieving because, at the moment, we simply don’t have the cardiac services in this county of 150,000 people. It’s a disgrace.”
In response to the issues raised, the management of Wexford General said that they could not comment on individual patient cases. While they stated that Covid-19 was a factor in waiting times for cardiology services and heart monitors, they did acknowledge that pre-Covid there was a waiting list of nine months. Since the pandemic, this has risen to 12 to 15 months.
"Once the full impact of Covid-19 reached the hospital, all outpatient appointments were cancelled. This further affected waiting times,” a hospital statement read. “During the pandemic Wexford General Hospital were able to secure funding that allowed 100 Holter (heart) Monitors to be outsourced and fitted in the Whitfield Hospital. Wexford General Hospital now have additional staffing in place and are starting to work through the back log. The waiting list is currently down to approximately 12 months.
“The management and staff of Wexford General Hospital would like to apologise to all those affected and thank them for their patience.”