Campaigners for better cardiac services in the southeast have rounded on Minister for Health Simon Harris and the HSE following the death of a local man who was unable to get emergency treatment in University Hospital Waterford.
Catherine Power, sister of Thomas, the man who died in an ambulance on Sunday afternoon en route to hospital in Cork, claimed the HSE had "blood on their hands" because his death could have been avoided if 24/7 cardiac services were available in UHW.
Another prominent campaigner, Des Griffin, described Mr Power's death as "official murder" caused by the lack of emergency treatments options in Waterford. "
Mr Harris, however, ruled out providing a second catheterisation lab to treat cardiac patients in Waterford and said the decision not to provide 24/7 cardiac services in the southeast was made on clinical grounds and should not be altered for political reasons.
Mr Power, a farmer from Bell Lake near Dunmore East in Co Waterford, presented at UHW with chest pains on Sunday.
He was despatched in an ambulance to Cork, as the hospital’s sole cath lab is closed at weekends, but died about 30 minutes into the journey.
His family believe he would be alive if he had been able to receive emergency treatment in Waterford.
The hospital was unable to say why Mr Power was not transported by helicopter to Cork, although a spokesman said normal clinical protocols were followed.
Asked about Mr Power’s death, Mr Harris said he didn’t know the details of the case and could not comment on individual cases.
He stressed he had to follow clinical advice in the provision of services, and had done so in relation to cardiac services at University Hospital Waterford.
A report by Belfast cardiologist Dr Niall Herity, commissioned by the Minister, recommended against providing a second cath lab in Waterford. It also said emergency services should be closed and transferred to Cork, but this proposal has not been implemented.
A cath lab is where angiograms are performed, along with scheduled and emergency stenting.
The absence of a night service in the southeast means emergency patients have to be rushed by ambulance, or helicopter when available, to Dublin or Cork.
Junior Minister for Skills John Halligan said the Herity report was deeply flawed.
“I continue to reject this incomplete report, which did not take into account the views of consultants in the region. Patient safety is being compromised while cardiac services in Waterford and the southeast are under-resourced.”
Independent Minister of State Finian McGrath said the Independent Alliance remained unhappy about the situation in the southeast.
“The Alliance is not happy about this. John Halligan put the cath lab on the table and we need to see some movement on this, to see some action,” Mr McGrath said.
“The people of Waterford deserve proper heart and cardiac services. The vast majority of people should support John Halligan in his efforts to open up this new cath lab.”