Campaigners calling for the provision of round the clock cardiac care at University Hospital Waterford have received a response from Minister Reilly stating that the issue is being considered.
“This service has been promised since 2010. While it’s positive to get a response, we will continue to closely monitor his level of attention to this matter,” said Willie Doyle from Lower Newtown who brought the issue to prominence after his daughter was admitted to hospital with chest pains.
It was discovered she had a blockage in the main blood vessel going to her heart and, as she had arrived at 4.30pm on a Friday, she was able to receive the necessary treatment.
However, Mr Doyle was shocked to discover that the cath lab at University Hospital Waterford is only open Monday-Friday from 8.30am – 5.30pm.
“Approximately 10,000 people die in Ireland each year from cardiovascular disease according to the Irish Heart Foundation. Around 5,000 of these deaths relate to heart attack. Ireland’s death rate from heart disease is one of the highest in Europe. Research carried out shows that the most common time for having a heart attack is in the morning between 6am and 12 noon and that the most dangerous days are at weekends and holidays,” said Mr Doyle.
He continued: “A heart attack happens when a coronary artery gets blocked. The faster the blood flow is restored, the less damage will be done to your heart. To be most effective these treatments must be given fast, preferably one hour from the start of the heart attack symptoms. By acting fast, the patient’s life can be saved and damage to the heart minimalised.”
Hospitals in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway already have 24/7 cardiac cover.
Patients in Waterford who require stents outside of the cath lab’s opening hours are transferred to either Cork or Dublin.
“The longer the delay in getting cardiac intervention, the more damage will be done to the heart muscle. The closer you are to the cath lab, the better chances of survival. Lives are being lost because of the distance patients have to travel to other centres outside the Waterford opening hours,” said Mr Doyle.
He added: “There is only one ambulance available in Waterford from 5am to 8am. When a cardiac patient has to be brought to another hospital for treatment the area is deprived of ambulance cover while this happens. Depending on the condition of the patient, a doctor and nurse from the emergency department would have to travel with them. This leaves the emergency department short staffed as resources are taken from the hospital.”
In July 2010, the HSE Network Manager for the South East Hospital Group stated their plan was to extend the cardiac service in Waterford so that patients will have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In a statement issued to The Munster Express earlier this year, a HSE spokesperson stated that a 24/7 Interventional Cardiology Service would be available when “the appropriate infrastructure” is in place.
“Surely the purpose of the Health Service is to keep people alive by providing staff and equipment to function effectively and efficiently in life threatening situations. No amount of life saving equipment will work if no staff are provided/available to operate it. Some lifesaving equipment is ‘nice to have’. In a cardiac situation access to a cath lab 24/7 365 days a year is a must have,” said Mr Doyle.
“Must the 500,000 people in the South East wait until some misfortunate cardiac patient pays the ultimate price with their life before this situation is brought up to date? The facility is at the hospital, all is needed is the employment and redeployment of staff to extend the opening hours to 24/7/365.”
The group calling for 24/7 cover recently brought their campaign to Dail Eireann where they hand delivered a letter for Minister Reilly highlighting the inadequacy of the current cardiac service in the South East.
So far, the group have collected over 5,000 signatures calling for 24/7 cardiac services for Waterford and the South East.