The government and the HSE have once again been accused of gambling with the lives of the people of Wexford after the cath lab for administering cardiac care in University Hospital Waterford was out of action for maintenance for two days last week.
Currently, the Cath Lab in Waterford is only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, meaning that anyone from Co Wexford requiring cardiac care outside those times would be facing a long transfer to either Cork or Dublin for life-saving treatment. General Election candidates Cllr Ger Carthy and Seanie O'Shea have branded the situation a disgrace.
'I'd be very concerned with the frequency of technical problems at the cath lab in Waterford,' said Cllr Carthy, who also works with the National Ambulance Service. 'There's an issue there on a bi-fortnightly basis at this stage and diversion protocol is put in place for patients coming from Wexford.'
'For nearly three years now there's been talk of a second cath lab in Waterford and it hasn't happened. Minister Harris has had numerous reports and deputations from cardiac specialists from across the region and still nothing has been done. Time is muscle in these cases and, for a region with over 500,000 people, we need a 24/7 service. People in County Wexford have died as a result of this.'
Speaking from experience, Cllr Carthy says that the amount of trauma that can be inflicted on a patient in one of these transfers can't be overstated.
'If I or one of my colleagues attend a scene at rural Wexford in the middle of the night and we're professional enough to be able to resuscitate the patient, they'll usually require intervention,' he said. 'In that case, time is against them. Depending on availability, you'd be looking at getting the Rescue 117 helicopter, because our Air Ambulance doesn't fly at night. All this takes time. It's not a pleasant experience for the patient either. It really adds to the trauma.'
Independents4Change candidate Seanie O'Shea pointed out that Waterford is the only nationally designated cardiac centre that doesn't operate on a 24/7 basis.
'The lack of 24/7 cardiac care in Waterford affects people throughout Wexford more than anyone, because obviously we're geographically further away from Cork,' he said.
'So when the Waterford Cath lab is closed on weekends people in South Wexford have just 90 minutes to get to Cork.'
'In the three years up to May 2019 not one of the 37 emergency cardiac transfers from Wexford to Cork was completed within 90 minutes. Not one. Zero. It's not an exaggeration to say some Wexford people didn't survive to tell their tale.'
Both Wexford candidates were extremely critical of the government's inaction on the issue of cardiac care in the region and O'Shea went on to add that, as a result, 'voting Fianna Fáil instead of Fine Gael or Labour is like punching yourself in the head to cure a headache.'