Equal access to emergency cardiac care

Waterford is one of six regional centres but the only location not open 24/7

Thomas Power, with his wife Bernadette on their wedding day last September. He died as he was being transferred from University Hospital Waterford to Cork last Sunday.

Thomas Power, with his wife Bernadette on their wedding day last September. He died as he was being transferred from University Hospital Waterford to Cork last Sunday.

 

The death of Thomas Power in an ambulance while en route from Waterford to Cork has reignited the controversy over cardiac services in the south-east. Power had attended his local hospital, University Hospital Waterford (UHW), with chest pains but it had to refer him to Cork University Hospital as it was a Sunday afternoon and Waterford’s sole catheterisation lab for cardiac emergencies was closed. Power sadly died halfway into his journey.

Waterford is one of six regional centres for emergency cardiac cases but the only one that is open daytime, five days a week, rather than 24/7. Campaigners in the south-east have long sought a second cath lab and round-the-clock cover. Efforts to achieve parity with other large urban centres have not been helped by Waterford’s lack of representation at the Cabinet table and the profusion of differing interests. No less than three separate campaign groups are active on the issue.

What should ultimately be a clinical decision took on a political hue since Waterford TD and Independent Alliance minister of state John Halligan made it a bargaining chip during Government formation. Halligan won a promise of a clinical review for Waterford but at a cost: the perception that this was about parish-pump politics.

Power’s death shows there is much more at stake. At this stage, it is not possible to say whether he would have survived had the best treatment options been available in Waterford, but common sense points towards this. Although his case has attracted much attention, campaigners say other patients have died, or suffered poor outcomes, due to the distance from Cork.

The clinical review found against expanding cardiac services in Waterford. Halligan now sets great store by the promise of a mobile cath lab in Waterford on a temporary basis. But this week has shown the most pressing issue is not the waiting list for scheduled patients, but the challenge of providing emergency treatment for patients suffering heart attacks and other serious cardiac issues and who are more than the critical limit of 90 minutes away from a care centre.

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