Confirmation that a second permanent cath lab is to be provided on the grounds of University Hospital Waterford (UHW) is ‘big step forward’ towards the eagerly-awaited provision of 24/7 cardiac care for the South East. Speaking exclusively to The Munster Express, Minister of State John Halligan said: “Best international practice suggests that you cannot have 24/7 cardiac care without two cath labs. Now that we have an assurance from the HSE that a second cath lab will be installed at UHW, for me, it’s a logical progression that 24/7 cardiac care will follow thereafter.”
A joint statement issued on behalf of Oireachtas members from the South East said they “remained united in their approach to improving the provision of cardiac care and all healthcare” to the people of the regionMinister Halligan believes last Tuesday’s announcement regarding the second cath lab, which is due to be delivered at UHW within the next 12 to 16 months, makes the delivery of 24/7 cardiac care inevtiable.
“If you look at where we are now: we now have a second cath lab (formally announced). In October’s budget, over €3 million will be allocated for it and the process of building a full cath lab will start straight away, as will recruitment to staff the lab. This is a big step forward and in my mind there is no question that you will not have two cath labs operating without 24/7 cardiac care. And when you bear in mind that we have been told that the National Review of Cardiac Services is due to be completed and delivered by June of next year, and that in advance of that review being finalised, we now know a permanent second cath lab will be delivered at UHW, all the practical evidence already in play, it’s hard to see how this issue could be pushed aside any further. On this occasion, there’s a unity of purpose among TDs and Senators right across the South East, be it our own representatives here in Waterford, John Paul Phelan in Kilkenny, Mick Wallace and Brendan Howlin in Wexford and many more, all of whom came together, met Minister (Simon) Harris and said that we want this, that the people of our region need this second cath lab, and I do feel that Minister Harris himself had major problems with the Herity Report, but as Minister, it would have been pretty irregular to go against an independent review of that kind, since he himself had set it up.”
When asked if he understood why some locals might be a tad cynical about this announcement coming 48 hours before Katy Hannon’s ‘Prime Time’ report on cardiac care in the South East, Minister Halligan replied: “But what came on ‘Prime Time’ was already known. And I really don’t think that anyone in Waterford will be surprised about the ambulance times because we all knew that. Yes, I can see where some people would come from in terms of the optics of the whole thing but throughout this entire campaign, the argument has been made about the catchment area for cardiac care, and those of us on the road a lot know the reality of driving from Waterford to Cork or Waterford to Dublin. If you’re lucky, you’d get from here to Cork in an hour and half – if you’re lucky – so describing what we saw on ‘Prime Time’ as an exclusive doesn’t stack up for me. There’s been anecdotal knowledge of this for quite some time and the consultants have said as much for even longer. Am I glad the issue got a national airing? Absolutely, but what we saw on RTE wasn’t news as far as the people of the South East were concerned, and we know we were sold a pup by Herity.”
As for the ongoing National Review, Minister Halligan said he welcomed the news that, unlike Dr Niall Herity, Professor Philip Nolan (of Maynooth University) will be taking ambulance times into account and will also be meeting with specialists in both South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel, along with Wexford General Hospital. All of the specialists agree that you have to have a clinical review: you can no longer get away with delivering services and facilities for purely political reasons. We’re not clinicians, nor should we pretend we are. But the good news is that we will have a second cath lab at UHW, and that this process is progressing.”