Cardiac campaigners in Waterford have been urged to stay the course in their pursuit of a second Cath Lab and 24/7 cardiac care at University Hospital Waterford (UHW).
While there was a relatively small attendance at a hastily arranged meeting held at the Granville Hotel, the night’s outcome suggested that the passion for the campaign, along with justified anger at the South East’s long wait for health equality, must not only be maintained, but re-invigorated.
With that in mind, a planned protest at Leinster House on Saturday, April 14th is to be rescheduled and may well take place beyond the holding of the 8th Amendment Referendum on May 25th.
Speaking at the meeting, UHW-based Cardiologist Dr Patrick Owens stressed that the provision of a Modular Lab at Ardkeen, to replace the Mobile Cath Lab, would provide a “unit that would do the diagnostic angiogram but would also allow you to go ahead and do a follow-up procedure.”
Dr Owens added: “And if you have a scenario where you have both labs with facilities such that you can do everything that needs to be done – a fixed lab instead of a modular lab – then it opens up huge efficiencies in how you’d run the service, because for example the obvious thing to do would be to turn one of those labs into what’s called an acute lab, which does nothing but deal with in-patient care so it would deal with emergency heart attacks in the community and it would also deal with patients who are lying in beds, and by doing that, you could lose all of that in-patient wastage of patients being in beds for 10 days when they could instead be dealt with within 24 hours (of admission). And it also means that the other lab can get on and do all of the elective work for those patients who need angiograms and follow-up procedures, so there’s a huge efficiency that would come with being able to have both labs doing the same thing.”
Said Patrick Owens: “My belief – it’s not even a belief anymore, it’s already been shown – just by what the mobile lab has done with the numbers, that there is a clear and unanswerable case that there is a need for two permanent, all bells and whistle cath labs, albeit one of them would be modular, only because that’s the quickest way it could solve the problem.” But he stressed that the provision of a modular lab in the immediate future was “purely a bridge to what needs to be the permanent solution, which is a lab operating 24/7 including primary pci for acute heart attacks. There’s no deviation from that as the core objective. The only reason why the modular lab is being discussed is because it would in fact provide a very good stepping stone towards that final objective.”
And, as Matt Shanahan of the Health Equality for the South East (HEFSE) group re-iterated on Wednesday last, such a modular lab is currently available in the United Kingdom.
“There certainly is one available in the UK with the contract staff,” he stated. “It’s provided by the same company presently supplying the diagnostic lab on site at UHW. A proposal was sent by the HSE up to South Group back in January and we believe the Minister (Simon Harris) has got it and the informal word coming back is that he is reviewing it with his Department officials but just to be clear: this modular lab can do all patient procedures to completion. So in other words, a patient who is going in for angiography could go on to have their stenting done all in one procedure; we had a retired paediatric consultant here tonight and he made the point that not doing that is patient abuse if the opportunity is there to do it. This modular lab is there; it’s only a small amount of money more than the present diagnostic lab to implement on site. I know our regional Oireachtas ministers asked the Minister (about the modular lab) and I would hope now that they would become far more forceful and demand that this be put on site at the present time. They have agreed to extend the diagnostic lab – but why not just put the modular lab on site so that people can have all of their procedures to completion and, as Dr Owens said, so that emergency patients can be treated immediately on arrival.”
Meanwhile, the regional dimension of the campaign was underlined by South Kilkenny-based County Councillor Tomas Breathnach (Lab), who also attended last Wednesday’s meeting.
“Kilkenny County Council and all of its elected representatives are fully committed to the provision of properly funded 24/7 cardiac services in Waterford,” he stressed. “We’ve passed our motions on two occasions through the Council, where the Council has written to the Department (of Health) outlining our position and indicating our support for it and it’s very important that people understand that the Piltown Municipal District meets with Councillors from both South Tipperary, Wexford and Waterford city on a regular basis. And collectively, we’ve agreed to write to Minister Harris, and that a meeting would be held with him and the elected members of all of the local authorities of the region. And what we’re envisaging is that two members from the Councils in Carlow, Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford would meet the Minister to outline and re-iterate a position which has been outlined articulately tonight, on behalf of the people of the South East, that this regional issue must be satisfactorily addressed.”