In the Dáil last week Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children when the HSE will develop a plastic surgery service in Waterford Regional Hospital.

In response Health Minister Mary Harney merely said: “As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply” – which as answers go is standard procedure these days.

Cork University Hospital currently provides plastic surgery for the south-east hospital group. However, a new maxofacial unit in this region is meant to be “a matter of priority.”

St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, which had been providing plastic surgery and other services to patients from beyond the capital, recently wrote to GPs in County Wexford and elsewhere to state that due to an increase in doctor referrals within its own catchment area it was no longer in a position to see outside public patients.

Other services affected include ear, nose and throat surgeries. The waiting time for an appointment at Ardkeen is “up to two years for compared to 6-9 months for St Vincent’s,” says Fine Gael Senator, Rosslare-based Dr Liam Twomey.

He also complains that one has to wait around nine months for an orthopaedic outpatient appointment in St Vincent’s versus “four years for an appointment in Waterford Regional Hospital.”

Also, while one sometimes has to wait weeks but normally less than three months for a scope procedure – used to diagnose stomach or bowel cancer – in St Vincent’s, you’ve to wait “far longer” in both WRH and Wexford General Hospital “because the services are completely under-resourced in both hospitals.”

Also, because of the cardiology cover deficit at Ardkeen, “in Waterford one should only have a heart attack three days a week between 9am and 5pm, whereas one can have one at any time of the day in Dublin,” he says.

While there might be a catheterisation laboratory and rapid access diagnostic clinic for prostate cancer in WRH, “there are no fully functioning urologists… There was no urologist in the hospital up to a few months ago and in its wisdom the Health Service Executive then took on three. However, it has not allocated any resources to provide the urology services available in St Vincent’s,” Dr Twomey added.

He has asked if the HSE will be divert the funding Dublin hospitals receive for the 15% of patients who historically have come from outside of their catchment areas to WRH to make up the shortfall.