Thousands march in city for health equality

The people of Waterford came out in their thousands on Saturday last to re-iterate their call for enhanced cardiac services at University Hospital Waterford. 	| Photo: Mick Wall

The people of Waterford came out in their thousands on Saturday last to re-iterate their call for enhanced cardiac services at University Hospital Waterford. | Photo: Mick Wall

THOUSANDS from across Waterford and the South-East took to the streets on Saturday to demand immediate action on cardiac care at University Hospital Waterford (UHW). The ‘South East Broken Hearts’ march was organised by campaign groups Health Equality for the South East (HEFSE), 24/7 Cardiac Care for the South-East and South-East Patient Advocacy Group (SEPAG) and was supported by the Waterford Trades Council.
Garda estimates have put the attendance at between 8,000 and 10,000, with organisers suggesting that the figure exceeded those figures.
Protestors gathered in The Glen for 2pm and made their way down Bridge Street, along The Quay, and into John Roberts Square where a number of different speakers addressed the enormous gathering.
Metropolitan Mayor Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) said people had gathered to demand equal rights within the health care system. “We are entitled, as citizens of Waterford and the South-East, to 24/7 cardiac care facilities at UHW. We cannot stop and we will not stop until that is delivered,” he said.
Hilary O’Neill of SEPAG highlighted that one in three people will require the cardiac services at UHW.
“It’s a frightening statistic. We cannot be complacent,” she said.Cardiac campaigner Cllr Matt Shanahan (Ind), who was recently co-opted onto Waterford City & County Council in place of former Cllr Mary Roche, also highlighted the unfair treatment of the South-East.He said the region continues to be discriminated against and called for An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris to take immediate action. While he acknowledged the efforts of Waterford’s TDs, he urged them to continue fighting for the delivery of a full 24/7 service at UHW.
Cllr Shanahan said Waterford is in the unfortunate position of having only three TDs working on the issue as opposed to the four which were elected.In a stinging indirect reference to Deputy John Deasy (FG), Cllr Shanahan said the entire West Waterford area remains without representation.
Those in attendance also heard from Roisin McGoldrick of SEPAG; Dr Mark Doyle; heart attack survivors Jenny Pheasey and David Ridgard; and Eva Creely, sister of Una McDermott who died while waiting to avail of cardiac services at UHW. Speaking after the event, Cllr Shanahan thanked all involved with Saturday’s march on behalf of HEFSE.
However, he stressed the need for immediate political action. “A significant question has now arisen which must immediately be answered by our Oireachtas TDs,” he said.“Why have our TDs not addressed the issue of immediate use of the contract cath lab on site to deliver cardiac stenting and other invasive procedures which can immediately impact waiting lists and emergency care at UHW? This lab is presently restricted to diagnostic duty only. The problem of cardiac care in the South-East has always been one of cath lab capacity and now that we have increased capacity by means of a second lab and contracted staff which can immediately remedy a large part of the problem. Why is it not being called into use by our TDs and neighbouring TDs in South East counties?”
He continued: “If Oireachtas members want to demonstrate their desire to see immediate patient service improvements at UHW, why not make reference to and representation on using this cath lab to achieve this goal? This has not happened since the September meeting with Simon Harris – one wonders why? Cardiac care can be immediately improved for all patient groups in the South-East by use of this second Cath Lab.”
He called for this lab to be immediately resourced to begin stenting and other procedures “in the interests of patient care”.
“The failure of our political representatives to act in achieving this will add to the idea that it is ‘party before people’ which matters most for some of our elected representatives in the South-East,” he said.
“We look forward to immediate public political action that will prove this statement incorrect.”
In a statement after the march, SEPAG said: “All we want is a fighting chance and we are being denied this. We need a second cath lab but we need it to function on a 24/7 basis or it still won’t save a single life any evening or weekend.”
The spokesperson added: “This disgraceful denial of a vital lifesaving service not only affects the people of the South-East but it also affects the people in Cork and Dublin and surrounding areas too because every time a patient is sent from the South-East to Cork or Dublin they are taking up a bed and denying people in these areas access to services in their hospitals. We need a 24/7 cardiac care service at UHW and the South-East regional status needs to be restored with UHW reinstated as the regional hospital with all category 4 hospital acute services.”