Calls for the installation of a Modular Cath Lab at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) have been re-iterated locally as impatience grows pending the outcome of the National Cardiac Review.
The demand was put directly to Health Minister Simon Harris by party colleague and general election candidate, Senator Paudie Coffey (FG) during a recent meeting, in which the former TD appealed for a “more permanent solution” than the mobile Cath Lab currently in operation at UHW. In addition, the Health Equality for the South East (HEFSE) lobby group has told this newspaper that a Modular Interventional Lab which was available in the New Year – and was proposed to Minister Harris at the time – has since been availed of by the British National Health Service. According to HEFSE Spokesman Matt Shanahan: “It’s worth repeating some very significant facts here. The Cardiac PPCI centre at UHW remains the only national centre of six designated restricted to a single Interventional Cath Lab and no 24/7 access. Bear in mind that the Dublin Metropolitan Cath lab count is now nine public labs with an additional lab under construction and don’t forget a further 11 Private Cath Labs, which gives you a total of 21 Cath Labs for a population of 1.2 million. Yet the South East endures a single Cath Lab which is restricted to a 39-hour operating week. How can this continue to be the case?”
In relation to the Modular Interventional Lab in the UK (“available and proposed to Minister Harris on January 10th), Mr Shanahan pointed out that such a facility would have led to the provision of “full cardiac interventional capability including PCI and acute STEMI patient treatment on a five-day basis, but that unfortunately is no longer available to UHW. And again we find ourselves asking a question we’re sick and tired of asking: how can this continue to be the case?”
Matt Shanahan claimed: “This loss of this Modular Interventional Lab is as a result of the disgraceful, deliberate and complete obstruction by Department (of Health) officials to ensure that no additional interventional cardiac capacity could be implemented at UHW in the interim. That patient care, patient safety and possible life saving interventional capacity is being denied the people of the South East region is a stain in our opinion on the reputations of those elected to serve and represent the needs of the citizens of this region.”
He added: “We would remind people that the Government is spending €2 million per annum to keep a mobile diagnostic cardiac unit in place at UHW until the proposed National Review is completed, a diagnostic unit that can do nothing to intervene to save a life. The Modular Interventional Cath Lab that was available earlier this year would mean a total annual increased cost of €130,000 over the cost of this passive diagnostic unit, €130,000 more per annum to operate for five days, which would obliterate the waiting lists in the South East and provide enhanced out of hours cover, and yet this still could not be delivered politically.”
It’s understood that a Modular Lab has been suggested to the HSE but could be deployed mo earlier than this September or October. But, said Matt Shanahan, “the commercial company involved requires a signed contract within one week to secure or will open to NHS procurement also”.
In a statement issued last week, Senator Coffey said he’d asked Department of Health officials to “closely examine” his own proposal for a Modular Cath Lab.
“For me, the Minister’s officials have had enough time to do this – a decision on this has to be made – and made now.”
He added: “I stressed to Minister Harris the importance of making immediate progress on the installation of a Modular Cath Lab in UHW as an interim measure until the National Cardiac Review is completed.
“Patients in the South East continue to be exposed to serious risk because of the extremely limited access to emergency cardiac services after hours. This situation is unacceptable and untenable, and this is reflected in further recent events where patients have had to be transferred to Cork for emergency cardiac intervention.”
Senator Coffey re-iterated his call for Minister Harris to make “an early decision on the matter”. Interestingly, he said he is hopeful that a decision on this long-running issue will be made “in the coming weeks”.