‘Wanderly Wagon’: Mobile cath lab finally arrives in Waterford

Lab will clear diagnostic backlog, but 24/7 cardiac unit still needed, say campaigners

The new mobile catheterisation lab at University Hospital Waterford. Photograph: Patrick Browne

The new mobile catheterisation lab at University Hospital Waterford. Photograph: Patrick Browne

 

A mobile unit for treating heart patients in Waterford, promised by the Government in response to local anger over cardiac facilities in the southeast, has arrived in the city.

The mobile catheterisation lab will cater for 30-45 patients a week, for a period of 20 weeks, at a cost of about €1 million.

Local independent TD and Minister of State John Halligan said the lab is expected to “completely clear” waiting lists for patients requiring diagnostic angiography while on site at University Hospital Waterford.

The lab will not provide emergency cardiac care, he admitted. “The campaign to extend 24/7 cardiac cover to the southeast continues in earnest. However, the operation of the mobile cath lab at UHW will be used to strengthen the argument that a permanent second lab is necessary to meet the cardiology needs of the region.”

Campaigners for 24/7 cardiac services in Waterford have already dubbed the new arrival the “Wanderly Wagon” due to the time it has taken to arrive. The Government agreed to Mr Halligan’s demand to fund the lab in January but six months passed before the HSE organised a tender competition for the service.

“This will not deliver 24/7. It will only do diagnostics and take people off one waiting list and onto another if they need follow-on treatment,” said Hilary O’Neill of the South-East Patient Advocacy Group.

Outsourcing initiative

Since the idea of the mobile lab was mooted, over 300 Waterford patients have been treated in public and private hospitals in Cork under an outsourcing initiative of the local hospital group. As a result, the maximum waiting time has been cut to under 12 months.

However, Mr Halligan pointed out that 30 per cent of people who were offered appointments in Cork turned them down. The mobile lab was first suggested to him by cardiac consultants in Waterford, he pointed out.

“A second review is to take place into the day-to-day cardiology needs of the region and, as part of this, throughput at the mobile lab will be measured in the context of two cath labs operating concurrently at UHW. Consultants have assured me that the demand to have two labs in operation on a long-term basis does exist and I have no doubt that this will be reflected in the second review.”

Waterford is only one of seven major cardiac services to operate daytime hours only. The absence of a night-time service in the southeast means emergency patients have to be brought by ambulance, or helicopter when available, to Dublin or Cork.

A cath lab is where angiograms are performed, along with scheduled and emergency stenting.