Cardiac services should not be changed for political reasons – Harris

Minister for Health says expert had examined cath lab issue

Minister for Health Simon Harris: said he had to follow clinical advice in the provision of services. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Minister for Health Simon Harris: said he had to follow clinical advice in the provision of services. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

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, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Asked about the death of Co Waterford man Thomas Power while being transported by ambulance to Cork, Mr Harris said he didn’t know the details of the case and couldn’t 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.

Campaigners in the southeast have been seeking a second catheterisation lab, or cath lab, at the hospital to treat people with serious heart conditions and ensure provision of a round-the-clock service. The existing cath lab is the only one in the State that operates part time.

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.

Independent Minister of State Finian McGrath said the Independent Alliance remained unhappy about the situation in the southeast. His colleague Minister of State John Halligan has argued for the cath lab. “The Independence 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.”

Mr McGrath was speaking on his way into Government Buildings on Tuesday morning.

Recommendations

Mr Harris said he commissioned a very eminent Northern Ireland cardiologist, Prof Niall Herity, to conduct a review of the issue and “answer the question once and for all”.

Dr Herity made recommendation to improve services, extend the hours of the existing cath lab and appoint more staff, and these were being implemented, the Minister said. In addition, a mobile cath lab was being provided for a time and patients on waiting lists were being treated in other hospitals.

“I am happy after the mobile lab is there for a period to again review the situation, but I do have to follow the clinical evidence, just as my predecessors did in relation to cancer care or emergency departments.”

“If the Minister of the day departs from that now well-established precedent, that would be a retrograde step.”

Mr Harris, speaking at the Private Hospital Association conference in Dublin, said that if the evidence changed on review, he would be happy to change his position “but the evidence so from the Herity report is very clear”.