Waterford cardiac plan ‘not priority’ for department
Note reveals opposition to expansion of heart services in UHW prior to Herity review
Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan who has threatened to resign if the Government does not agree to the expansion of cardiac services at UHW, but has so far not implemented his threat. Photograph: Alan Betson
The Department of Health briefed against the expansion of cardiac services in Waterford despite promises that a review of the issue would be independent, newly revealed documents show.
An unredacted version of the briefing document provided by the department to the review says the provision of a 24/7 cardiac service at University Hospital Waterford along with the provision of a second catheterisation lab for heart attack patients was not a top priority.
The department previously sought to conceal its stance by redacting the paragraph in which it expressed its position to Dr Niall Herity, the Belfast cardiologist who carried out the review, when releasing the briefing document under freedom of information.
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The group’s priority is to upgrade intensive care and decontamination facilities and staffing and to ensure compliance within all hospitals with Hiqa regulations, the note claims, rather than expand cardiac facilities.
The hospital group downgraded the risk posed to patients by the lack of cardiac facilities in Waterford weeks before Dr Herity’s review was completed and without the knowledge of staff in UHW, The Irish Times has previously reported.
Hospital campaigner and former Fianna Fáil election candidate Kieran Hartley accused the department of making a “direct political intervention” in a process that should have been decided on clinical merits. By redacting the briefing note, it had tried to hide its interference in the process, he said.
The provision of a second cath lab in Waterford was approved by the hospital group last March and the project was queued for funding, according to Mr Hartley. The review by Dr Herity should therefore have been a “foregone conclusion”, resulting in support for the expansion of services at UHW, he said.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has committed to a fully independent review yet his officials had briefed against the expansion of services, he added.
Dr Herity’s report, published last month, recommended against a second cath lab in Waterford and said some advanced cardiac services should be transferred to Dublin and Cork.
The review was carried out on foot of political promises made to local TD John Halligan during talks on the formation of government. He was promised that services would be expanded, subject to a favourable clinical review.
Mr Halligan has threatened to resign if the Government does not agree to the expansion, but has so far not implemented his threat.