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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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People in need of heart consultations in Meath are waiting up to two years for an appointment

Nearly 200 people have been waiting up to 22 months for a cardiac consultation at Our Lady’s Hospital Navan.

shutterstock_570150007 File photo Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

PATIENTS IN NEED of heart care consultancy in the east of the country are waiting up to 22 months for a cardiac appointment.

The waiting list for public cardiology outpatients of Our Lady’s Hospital Navan (OLHN), Co Meath currently stands at 581.

Of those, 32% (184) have been waiting for longer than a year to be seen, with the longest waiting 22 months.

The list refers to patients who have been referred to the hospital by an outside agency, such as their GP, as needing a cardiac examination.

“The GPs and the patients are the ones really suffering here,” a source told TheJournal.ie.

navan2 Source: IEHG

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Of course if you wait long enough for something to go wrong your best bet is to call into casualty, but that’s not much use for someone trying to catch a problem early.

Currently, the director of cardiac services at the hospital is a locum (agency staff). That has been the case since current president of the board at the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) Kate McGarry left that position at OLHN in 2014.

It’s understood that a process to select a permanent head of cardiac services as her replacement has yet to begin.

OLHN has one of the highest rates of locum practitioners (as opposed to HSE-contracted staff) in the country.

The cardiac waiting lists at Navan hospital are subsumed within the overall lists provided by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (at present the NTPF does not provide waiting lists by specialty for each hospital).

At present there are 792 people who have been waiting for longer than a year for outpatient treatment at the hospital, of which 23% are waiting for cardiac services (there are 66 medical specialty waiting lists detailed on the NTPF site).

‘Absolutely shocking’

Local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín said of the situation that “healthcare denied for this length of time, in this area, has to be leading to serious negative health outcomes for patients”, adding that “allowing patients to languish for up to two years is absolutely shocking”.

In contrast to the lengthy waiting list for a consultation, the list for non-invasive procedures is relatively short – between three and eight weeks for tests such as blood pressure monitoring, ECHO testing (using sound waves to monitor a heart’s chambers), and stress testing.

All invasive cardiology procedures required for Navan patients, meanwhile, are referred to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Dublin.

There is just one physician at OLHN dedicated to providing non-invasive heart consultancy.

In September, TheJournal.ie revealed that the hospital has been operating for at least two years without a single HSE-contracted doctor in its Emergency Department (ED) – a fact which left it particularly vulnerable to a recent wildcat strike on the part of locums across seven Irish hospitals.

navan Our Lady's Hospital Navan Source: Google Maps

When that strike began, four out of five of the locums staffing the ED in Navan failed to show up for work for four days, with the department eventually bolstered by staff drafted from other areas of the hospital.

Regarding the issues being seen with the cardiac waiting list, a spokesperson for the Ireland East Hospital Group (IEHG) told TheJournal.ie that “IEHG is working with Our Lady’s Hospital Navan to significantly reduce this waiting list”.

The spokesperson said that two full-day clinics have been scheduled to clear those patients on the list who have been waiting the longest in a bid to get the wait time to under 12 months.

“It is clear that the HSE are not providing the necessary resources,” said Tóibín.

It is incumbent upon the Minister for Health to step in personally and provide the necessary resources for the people of Meath. This major resource gap leads to further questions regarding the government’s commitment to a fully functioning hospital in Navan, given the radical increase in population in Meath over the last 15 years and the dysfunction of some of our neighbouring hospitals.

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