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Doctors 'utterly reject' report into Waterford cardiac services and say lives are 'absolutely' at risk

They want to meet with Health Minister Simon Harris as soon as possible.

CONSULTANT CARDIOLOGISTS from the southeast have said they “utterly reject” the findings of a review into the potential need for a second catheterisation lab, which specialises in examining the heart, at University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

A number of doctors held a joint press conference at Buswells Hotel in Dublin city centre today to express their “grave concerns that the flawed report has been unchallenged, and yet is being used by the Department [of Health] to radically alter, for the worse, the provision of cardiac care for the half a million people in the southeast of Ireland”.

Dr Patrick Owens, consultant cardiologist at UHW, again called for a meeting with Health Minister Simon Harris about the issue.

Owens said Harris has refused to meet him and is “hiding” behind the report.

“The struggle for adequate resourcing for the southeast cardiac service has been four years in the fighting. This report was the last in a long line of hindrances and procrastinations we have encountered in this struggle,” Owens said.

The issue has been making headlines recently due to an ongoing row between junior minister John Halligan, a TD for Waterford, and the Government about the second cath lab.

Owens said he met Halligan on Thursday before the report was made public, and spoke to him over the phone on Sunday.

He said that while he appreciated Halligan – who has threatened to resign over the issue – keeping the topic on the agenda, he regrets that it has become politicised.

Owens said he’s “not going to get into” a discussion about the political “toing and froing” that has ensued since the review was published last Thursday.

Speaking of the political attention the issue has garnered, Owens said: “I really wish it hadn’t happened.”

Inaccurate population calculation

Owens said the population calculation in the report was “inaccurate”, thereby making all the recommendations “flawed”.

Owens described this by using what he called the “Croke Park analogy”.

He said the way the population was calculated for the review would be similar to determining how many people want to come to an All-Ireland Final by counting the number of people in the stadium.

File Photo: Make Up Your Mind Time. Minister of State John Halligan under pressure to make a decision regarding staying or leaving government, over the Waterford Hospital issue. End. John Halligan Source: RollingNews.ie

“This figure can never exceed the capacity of the stadium (82,300), regardless of the demand. The application of this method for determining the effective population on a capacity-constrained service, such as the southeast cath laboratory, leads to erroneously and dangerously low population estimates.”

Owens said a lack of consultation with doctors from UHW, Wexford General Hospital and South Tipperary General Hospital ”who know what happens on the ground” led to “flawed” recommendations.

Some 581 people are waiting for cardiac-related procedures at UHW, with a waiting time of 18 months. There is a similar waiting time for patients from South Tipperary General Hospital and a wait time of over 12 months for patients from Wexford General Hospital.

When asked if people’s lives are at risk due to the current situation, Owens said “absolutely”.

‘Highly respected’ 

Over the weekend, a Fine Gael spokesperson told TheJournal.ie: “The Programme for Government committed to the development of a second cath lab in University Hospital Waterford, subject to a favourable recommendation from an independent clinical review of the needs of the region.”

The spokesperson said the Belfast-based cardiologist, Dr Niall Herity, who completed the review is “highly respected”.

“Dr Herity has made clear recommendations that a second cardiac cath lab at UHW is not justified and Minister Simon Harris and Fine Gael accept this.

“However, he also recommends investing in UHW to enhance the existing cardiac services, including increasing the number of weekly sessions currently provided, in order to address waiting times and to provide improved access for patients.”

Read: Fine Gael TD criticises John Halligan’s ‘extraordinary’ comments about colleagues

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Órla Ryan

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