Addressing Health Minister Simon Harris, Senator O’Sullivan said the death of Thomas Power had tragically underlined that the people of the south east “cannot wait any longer” for the desired upgrade in cardiology services.
“(We can’t wait) for another review, not for another cath lab that should already have been delivered by now, and not for more excuses. People have died and more will die unless the Government takes action necessary to deliver a safe and adequate health care system to the region.”
Senator O’Sullivan said she had been speaking to elected politicians from across the region “in an effort to build support for a depoliticised approach that serves the region best”. She has also liaised with consultants at UHW who have “an extremely clear and detailed analysis of what needs to be done”.
Referring to that suite of recommendations, and availing of statistical studies compiled in the UK and Europe “using similar demographics”, Senator O’Sullivan said that “the lack of a (24/7) service in the south east is causing 6.3 deaths per year”.
She added that “multiple worldwide clinical assessment of primary emergency coronary angioplasty and stenting for ST-elevated heart attack has been demonstrated to be only effective if carried out soon after the first presentation of symptoms of a heart attack. After 90 minutes, the benefits of primary PCI are negligible, as heart muscle, starved of oxygen and blood supply, has already died and is not replaceable.”
The Cath Lab at UHW, said Senator O’Sullivan, “in 2015, dealt with approximately 64 such events during open hours, while 75 were sent outside the region for treatment”.
Referring patients to centres located elsewhere “where travel times can be double the European standard of 60 minutes, is proven to a clinical, sub-optimal treatment protocol”.
And the loss of heart muscle due to delays in accessing emergency care “leads to both death and increased morbidity for survivors. The south east has many patients who have suffered damage and loss of heart muscle. Their resulting health profile and quality of life are severely impacted as a result. They are an increased drain on scarce health resources as they are forced to engage more often on an ongoing basis with primary and hospital services due to their compromised health status. This health discrimination is perpetrated on no other citizenry in the country.”
Senator O’Sullivan said that the recent ‘Liveline’ coverage of the issue has made plain the “huge anxiety and stress” of many living in the south east when it comes to the level of service currently available at UHW.
She added that the recommendations of the Herity Report – to remove all emergency cardiac access and elective PCI procedures at UHW “will significantly impact the direct provision of high value, acute medical services within the south east”.
She described the Herity Report’s recommendations with respect to UHW as “illogical and misdirected in terms of any measure of quality healthcare, economic impact and social deprivation one wishes to mention”.
The Senator said that the immediate provision of a second cath lab at UHW was now both vital and unavoidable. “The clinical case for this has long been made and recent events should now stimulate all elected representatives (to demand) 24/7 cardiac care for the south east region.”
She stated: “Minister, I am standing here on behalf of people from the south east, from Waterford and on behalf of the Power family. It is a disgrace what happened recently. It is such a tragedy and something has to be delivered now; not a review, but a 24/7 (cardiac care) centre in Waterford.”
Minister Harris noted to the House that such cardiac care is not available in the midlands, and that the 500,000 figure offered by campaigners as UHW’s catchment area may not represent the ‘real’ catchment area of the hospital.
“The evidence in the Herity Report was that, when you actually look at the trends, that many of those people, of the 500,000, were choosing to go, or were going to different locations (for cardiac care) be it Dublin, be it Cork primarily. Now if that evidence changes and more people start going to the (Waterford) service, well then the figures may change when it’s reviewed again.”