The commissioning of a Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory at Waterford Regional Hospital next June will save thousands of patients the added trauma of having to travel to Dublin or Cork for treatment. The announcement has been welcomed by former Mayor of Waterford, Hilary Quinlan, as a common sense move from both economic and humane viewpoints.

City Councillor Quinlan (FG), who has long been campaigning with other public representatives for the service, said the transfer of heart patients from the south east to St. James Hospital in Dublin for essential treatment was currently costing over €6 million a year. The outlay involved in providing the same service locally would be far less, he said, but more importantly the reduction in terms of stress for patients was vital for their wellbeing.

Cllr. Quinlan, a member first of the South Eastern Health Board (since 1991) and then the Health Service Executive South, tabled a motion at the latter’s March meeting demanding that the state of the art “Cath Lab” at WRH be commissioned as a matter of urgency. He was told by Mr. Richie Dooley, South East Hospitals Network Manager, that the commissioning was a priority and now it has been confirmed it is to be done, starting in June, despite a shortfall in funding.

Mr. Dooley said the South East Hospital Management Group was committed to commencing services on an incremental basis, acknowledging the budgetary shortfall and pledging to work towards a solution in that respect during the year.

He said that at present services could only be provided to the level of funding available, which was €1.3 million. To date no additional funding had been provided or committed from the National Hospitals Office but there had been discussions with the Director of the NHO about the possibility of transferring money from tertiary centres to recognise the reduction of demand on them from South East patient referrals.

The new facility will provide access to coronary angiography procedures for patients from the region. It will provide immediate access to cardiac assessment, diagnosis and interventional procedures, at the same time reducing the current requirement for patients to travel to Dublin and Cork for basic cardiac investigations.

The new laboratory will provide equal access to services from the four acute hospitals in the region, in Wexford, Kilkenny, South Tipperary and Waterford.

It is envisaged that the new service will ultimately deliver self-sufficiency for the HSE South East area for cardiac angiography and cardiac pacing. Services will be initiated on an incremental basis.

Cllr. Quinlan, who acknowledged long term cross-party support for the service, predicted that “it would pay for itself in no time” and would demonstrate how cost efficient the system could be. He said the example could follow through for other services also, like radiotherapy and cancer treatment in general.