Cardiology services in crisis

 

Sir, – We are writing on behalf of 245 GPs based in the southeast of Ireland, covering counties Waterford (105), Wexford (85), and South Tipperary (55), to express our major concern regarding the ongoing issue of provision of cardiology services at University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

The lack of progress in obtaining a second cardiac catheterisation laboratory is particularly worrying as it unnecessarily endangers patient health.

Lack of access to a 24-hour service in our region relegates very vulnerable patients to a second-grade service when more immediate treatment would certainly improve outcomes and save lives.

We understand that over 700 patients have been transferred off the waiting list in UHW and have been transferred to services in Cork. This move, which appears to be more politically than medically motivated, has altered waiting-list figures and has provided decision-makers with an excuse not to upgrade southeastern cardiac services. This situation is unacceptable to us and to our patients.

We understand that up to 30 per cent of patients have refused to travel to alternative centres. Many of these patients are marginalised and without the social support that would enable travel.

We also are led to believe that patients are travelling to Cork to have diagnostic angiograms performed and that when disease is identified patients may be referred back to UHW for definitive treatment.

A more logical and indeed safer option would be to provide such treatment at the time of angiography, as currently happens in all other centres.

The population is ageing throughout the country and the southeast region in particular has a significant cohort of elderly people with increasing healthcare requirements. We strongly believe that the failure to provide enhanced cardiac services is shortsighted and very much to the detriment of patients in the southeast. Patients who present to us in distress with a cardiac issue are extremely concerned about the location and viability of cardiac services in the region.

We wish to support our cardiology colleagues who try to provide an excellent service in extremely trying circumstances. We realise it will be increasingly difficult for them to continue to provide an appropriate service without improved facilities. Staff recruitment and retention will be at risk if expansion of facilities does not occur.

We hope that the much needed second cardiac catheterisation laboratory will be sanctioned for UHW as soon as possible to allow appropriate 24-hour cardiac care become a reality for all patients in this region. – Yours, etc,

Dr DERMOT NOLAN,

Chairman,

Irish College of

General Practitioners

(ICGP), Waterford faculty;

Dr JOHN COX,

Chairman,

Wexford ICGP faculty;

Dr JOHN FARRELL,

Chairman,

South Tipperary

ICGP faculty.