A NEW mobile cath lab at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) will provide the same service as the previous unit, according to the HSE.
The mobile cath lab which had been located at UHW was removed on Friday last for servicing and was replaced by another unit.
The HSE says the only difference between both units is that the replacement unit is not on wheels and has a capacity for some interventional work if required.
According to Dr Gerard O’Callaghan, Chief Operations Officer, South/South West Hospital Group, the question of carrying out interventional work does not arise as the unit has limited space overall and does not have an admission area or recovery beds.
He said the mobile cath lab which is managed by three diagnostic cardiologists has been very successful in reducing the cardiology waiting list.
On Thursday last, Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler said that the rumours circulating that the mobile cath lab was being removed and replaced by a modular lab were untrue.
“I have been in touch with the South/South West Hospital Group, and they have informed me that the lab in situ at present is being replaced for servicing but that it will return to normal,” she said.
She continued: “We all want the modular lab to be set up as quickly as possible, but it will not be happening this month. Anyone claiming otherwise is misinformed and is causing confusion among the general population. It seems to me there are many in the city and county who will jump on each and every rumour in an effort to cause more confusion. The Hospital Group has assured me that while there will be two weeks where the service is not available, it will be back up and running by Monday 3rd September. I am calling on all campaign groups to work with Waterford’s Oireachtas members to deliver the modular lab with a view to having a full time 24/7 second cath lab at UHW. Waterford Fianna Fáil Councillors and I recently submitted a detailed, evidence based submission on the provision of such a service. This is how we will win the services the people of Waterford and the wider South East region need. It sometimes doesn’t deliver the same headlines, but it’s the right and responsible way of doing what is needed.”
However, Health Equality for the South East (HEFSE) reacted angrily to this statement.
“If this is the official position of Mary Butler and Fianna Fáil and the modular lab now situated at UHW is proven capable of intervention, which HEFSE now categorically states it is , she should step down now and resign her seat as a Waterford political representative,” a spokesperson said.
“The Fianna Fáil position to ask campaign groups for support to continue health discrimination is mind boggling! It is disgusting to think that given the hardship patients, their families and clinical staff have endured for years that she and her party are committing to continuing to deny timely interventional treatment to South East patients. This campaign group will not support any further delays to service expansion and we will call them what they are – political manoeuvrings to protect a status quo and service elite! Stand with and for your people Mary or stand aside!”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Deputy David Cullinane has called on the Minister for Health to end the “chaotic” approach to the delivery of cardiac services in the South East.
He said the unusual way a modular cath lab has arrived at UHW raises questions but given that it is now in place it should be fully resourced and operational.
Deputy Cullinane said: “A number of months ago the Minister for Health announced that a modular cath lab would replace a mobile unit at UHW. The modular unit would be able to carry out both diagnostic angiograms and intervention work (stents). The mobile lab can do diagnostics only. In making this announcement the Minister said a design plan, a procurement process and planning was required and that this would take six months. However because the company that supplies the mobile lab has withdrawn the lab a modular lab has arrived without any procurement process or planning permission.”
He continued: “Worse still the modular lab will only carry out diagnostic work and not interventions. This is because the Minister has not yet made available the funding to make it happen. So we have a modular lab that is capable of carrying out interventional cardiology procedures but will not do so! This is crazy and chaotic. The Minister, the Department and the HSE are all over the place. They are contradicting themselves and causing huge confusion and upset. The modular lab must be allowed operate to full capacity. This will allow data to emerge that in my view will be favourable to the National Review. The chaotic and haphazard approach to this issue must end. The Minister must stop the messing, fully resource the lab and allow it to function to its full potential. The bottom line is the modular lab is in situ. Leaving aside how it arrived it should immediately be fully resourced and staffed to allow it deliver diagnostic and intervention procedures.”
Waterford Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey says he has pressurised Health Minister Simon Harris to haul in HSE managers to account for the latest “damaging controversy” involving cath lab facilities at UHW.Senator Coffey said he was in direct contact with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Harris over the weekend after it emerged that the mobile cath lab at UHW was removed for servicing. Senator Coffey said: “I am not at all satisfied with the information contained in the statement released from the Minister’s office last Friday. The information was provided by the HSE to Minister Harris to inform Oireachtas members of recent changes with regard to the mobile cath lab at UHW. If it is true that this new lab, which is described by the HSE as a ‘relocatable lab’, is fully equipped and has full operational capacity to operate as a full PCI interventional lab then those within HSE who claim otherwise must be held to account.”
Senator Coffey said he has asked Minister Harris to call in his officials in the Department of Health and the HSE to seek “a comprehensive explanation” on what exactly is going on and to establish if, as has been claimed, that false information is being provided by health officials to the Minister.
He added: “If this is found to be the case I will be seeking resignations from those responsible and asking the Minister to make a decision to proceed with the modular lab and the provision of resources to fully staff a 24/7 cardiac intervention service in the new lab. This is the only way forward that will satisfy the urgent need of full cardiac care patients in Waterford and the South East.”
“There are currently 434 patients on the cardiology inpatient waiting list, 334 of whom are waiting for less than twelve weeks,” he said.
“The replacement unit is a temporary building that does not have all of the facilities required for a fully functioning cath lab and would not be a suitable long-term structure. A modular cath lab is a semi-permanent structure, with an expected life of 40 to 50 years, which could be designed to include all of the functions of a cath lab. A modular unit would require design work and planning permission as well as needing to comply with procurement regulations.”
He said the Minister for Health Simon Harris has requested that the HSE would proceed with the next steps on the provision of a modular cath lab at UHW and said that this process has commenced.A statement from the Health Minister’s office released on Friday said the mobile lab was being replaced with a “relocatable unit” and that “normal service” would resume on September 3rd. Controversy erupted over whether or not the new temporary facility would have the same capacity as a modular lab.