Time for heart treatment centre in Waterford in wake of death - FF

Thomas Power’s sister tells TDs ’doors had been closed to him’ for emergency treatment

Supporters of  the  Power family protest outside the Dáil on Tuesday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Supporters of the Power family protest outside the Dáil on Tuesday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has criticised the Government over the death of a man who could not access emergency heart treatment services in Waterford University Hospital.

“A man died because he could not get access to emergency heart treatment within any reasonable timeframe,” Mr Martin said in the Dáil on Tuesday, in reference to the death last month of Thomas Power.

Mr Power (39) died en route by ambulance from Waterford to Cork, where he was being transferred because services were not available at the weekend, when he became will.

Mr Martin said a decision had been made in 2012 to open a second cath lab in Waterford University Hospital and provide a centre for emergency heart treatment. He added that a business case for it had then been made in 2013 and 2014.

It was not acted on before 2016 and he said very little had happened in the last year.

“Who stopped that?” he asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who was minister for health at the time.

The Fianna Fáil leader said Minister of State and Waterford TD John Halligan “is blaming invisible civil servants for stopping the Minister from doing what he wants to do”.

In response, the Taoiseach said: “I do not know who stopped it or if anyone stopped it at all”.

He said Mr Martin, as a former health minister, would know that those final decisions on funding were previously made by the HSE board and subsequently by the director general of the health service “and not by the line minister of the time”.

Clinical decisions

Mr Varadkar added that the HSE, established by Mr Martin, was set up in part “in order to take clinical decisions and decisions such as that away from the Minister for Health or other politicians”.

He said the HSE issued a tender last week for a mobile cath lab “which will contribute on an interim basis to the further reduction in elective cardiology waiting lists at the hospital”.

And he said the Minister was committed to a further review “at the end of the deployment of the mobile cath lab”, to assess the impact these improvements have on the volume of patients attending.

Mr Martin raised the issue following a meeting in Leinster House for TDs and Senators at which Mr Power’s sister “gave a heart-rending account of the devastation endured by her and her family as a result of her brother’s untimely death”.

He added: “She used simple words to encapsulate the entire event namely that the doors had been closed to him in seeking access to emergency heart treatment or intervention”.

Thousands of people in the south east “are beyond the 90-minute window that cardiologists say is the essential timeframe within which to be treated from first medical contact”.

Mr Varadkar said Mr Martin seemed to be conflating the issue of a second cath lab with 24 hours services seven days a week.

He said there could be two cath labs but without a 24-hour service or as in the case of St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin a single cath lab ran for quite some time on a 24-hour basis.

But Mr Martin said “an absence of a second lab is a risk to safety”.

The Taoiseach said the organisation of such cardiac service was an issue for the entire country and that was why Minister for Health Simon Harris was committed to a full national review.

He told Mr Martin that in Scotland, which is a similar sized country to Ireland, there were only two such labs.