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'I was told he was just having a panic attack - an hour later, he was dead'

There have been calls for an upgrade in the cardiology services available in University Hospital Waterford.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: patient via Shutterstock

THERE HAVE BEEN renewed calls for for University Hospital Waterford to be given the resources to operate a 24/7 cardiac unit following the death of a man last October.

Independent TD John Halligan has said successive governments had committed to upgrading the cardiac unit at the hospital. It currently closes at 5pm on Fridays.

A widow of a man who died at the unit has expressed her anger that the unit is not currently providing a more extensive service.

The plans to upgrade the unit have stalled, as the population of the surrounding area is insufficient to merit a unit of this type.

Halligan raised the case of Andrew Doherty in the Dáil yesterday.

Andrew was admitted to the hospital in October 2014 for heart surgery, and had two stents implanted.

He was transferred from the hospital’s cardiac unit to a different unit for recuperation.

Halligan told the Dáil of what happened 16 days after he was first admitted to the hospital:

“He began to feel chest pains on Sunday afternoon, but no doctor was called and no consultant informed of the change in the condition. As it was the weekend, the cath [catheterisation] lab was closed.”

The family were told not to worry, that he was having a panic attack. Mr Doherty passed away that night.

“A junior doctor, who I contacted, told his wife that he did not know the man’s history and could practically do nothing until the consultants returned on a Monday morning.”

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Andrew’s widow, Rita, said she finds it hard to contain her anger at what happened.

“He had just come back from the bathroom and said ‘Rita, I don’t feel well, get the nurse’,” she said, “The nurse checked him over and said it was a panic attack, and that we should give him some time alone.”

I went home, and within an hour and a half I got a call to come back. By the time I got there, he was dead.

Rita said she supported Halligan’s calls for improved services at the hospital.

“This government is disgraceful,” she said, “Whatever about Fianna Fáil, we always had something, but with this one, we don’t have anything.”

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Responding in the Dáil, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he wasn’t aware of the details of the case raised.

“I don’t have access to patients’ files and and I doubt that you do either,” he told Halligan, “and I think it inappropriate to raise such cases in the Dáil such as that unless you have full access and expert knowledge of the case.”

I do know, and I do expect, and I may be incorrect, but at any given time, in University Hospital Waterford, there will be at the very least a consultant physician on call, if not a consultant cardiologist, on call. Why they were not called in any particular case, I obviously cannot say.

The Minister dismissed increasing the capacity of the unit, as a 24/7 service requires an catchment area of between 500,000 and 1 million.

UHW serves between 300,000 and 500,000 people.

A 24-hour service requires two cath labs, the Minister explained.

“One thing that will cost lives, and I can absolutely guarantee you that, is any specialist service being set up that is not adequately staffed and does not have adequate throughput to assure quality, and to assure that those providing the service are able to keep their skills up to date.”

File Pics A report into hygiene at Waterford Regional Hospital has found there were immediate serious risks to the health and welfare of patients. File photo of the entrance of University Hospital Waterford. Source: Gareth Chaney/Photocall Ireland!

Varadkar suggested increasing the opening hours of the existing Cath lab, but said there may be issues around rostering the existing cardiologists.

A spokesperson for the HSE said, “The HSE is incrementally developing cardiology services in UHW so that a 24/7 service will be put in place in UHW within the framework of the South/South West Hospital Group and in collaboration with Cork University Hospital.”

They added that the HSE cannot comment on individual cases, but will always remain available to the family.

“Representatives from the University Hospital Waterford would welcome the opportunity to meet with the family and allay their concerns where possible.”

The six-bed cardiological intervention suite at the hospital opened in 2008, and it was upgraded to a primary PCI centre in 2012. It is staffed by three resident and two visiting consultants.

PCI services in Dublin are currently being reviewed, with other areas of the country to be considered afterwards.

Published 6am

Read: St Vincent’s hospital couldn’t accept some heart attack patients for a weekend >

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Nicky Ryan

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