“We were delighted with the turnout today,” said Health Equality For The South East (HEFSE) PRO and City East Local Election candidate Matt Shanahan as the crowds filed away from the Mall on Saturday last. “It keeps sending the message out to the powers that be about the need for 24/7 cardiac care at UHW, about the need for health equality in the South East and perhaps to some this might be like water running over a stone but we just have to keep on keeping on.”
When the march reached the steps of the Bishop’s Palace, the crowd heard from a range of speakers including well-known South East Radio broadcaster Liam Spratt (who worked in Waterford for 28 years). He told the gathering: “When I woke up today, I had to check the calendar and see was it actually 2019 and that the people of the South East have to get out and protest for something that is their due right…it is an absolute disgrace that there are people here today who have family members who should have passed away due to their cardiac arrest when there is a hospital a matter of minutes from here where the services to treat patients who suffer cardiac episodes aren’t open again until Monday morning. It is a disgrace, isn’t it?. A series of injustices have been served on the people of the South East and not just in the health area but generally. We have been completely neglected by the established political parties in this country. The time to shout ‘stop’ has long gone, but do you know what, a general election isn’t too far away and of course we have the (Local and European) elections coming up next Friday, but when it comes to the general election, we will soon have the opportunity to tell those people what we really think of them.
Among the speakers, Tom Hogan (Waterford Council of Trade Unions) acknowledged “the determination and commitment” of the protestors for remaining committed to the 24/7 cardiac care cause.
Adding that the UHW Mortuary controversy again raised questions about the HSE’s commitment to service delivery at Ardkeen, Mr Hogan added: “The hospital is, to some extent on life support. We know that scans for various conditions and that the appointments for patients, including those with cancer, are being put back by anything from four to six weeks, heaping further stress on already stressed patients and families. We’re top of the pile for waiting lists with over 11,000 people waiting 18 months for appointments to see consultants, etc. This isn’t acceptable. This isn’t good enough and this can’t go on.”
Letters of solidarity were read to the crowd on behalf of cardiac patient and heart attack survivor Jennifer Pheasey along with the family of the late Tom Power, the Bell Lake resident who died in July 2017 in an ambulance bound for University Hospital Cork after suffering a heart attack. “We need an open cath lab available on a 24/7 basis at University Hospital Waterford to cater to the needs of all in the South East region,” read the Power family letter. “We do not need promises, we do not need further reports, we do not need further investigations or clinical reviews. We need political action to deliver 24/7 care for the South East and we need it now – nothing more, nothing less.”
The gathering was also addressed by and retired consultant, Dr Paddy Condon,
Eva Crilly sister of the late Una McDermott (who presented herself to UHW on a Sunday and didn’t survive) and recently retired GP Dr Denis Kennedy. All spoke with clarity, conviction and determination about an issue that the people of the city, county and region have been left with little option but to keep protesting – and marching about.
See News 44 & 45 for further photos and next week’s edition for more coverage