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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 7°C

Southeast cardiac service 'Medical argument and simple logic are being ignored'

Health Minister Simon Harris needs to show control of his department seniors, writes Matt Shanahan.

THE USE OF Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 117 in past days to transfer a heart attack patient from University Hospital Waterford (UHW) to Cork University Hospital yet again demonstrates the need for a 24/7 cardiac service in the southeast region.

The transfer times alone are far in excess of the clinical standard, given the need for aircraft re-tasking and the requirement to access non hospital campus landing sites due to the aircraft size. This contributes to excessive treatment delay and suboptimal health outcomes.

The contracted Coast Guard helicopter service (5 Sikorsky S-92s) costs the state 68 million euro annually – 13.6 million each. This figure rises with a higher volume of hospital transfer flights requested.

Air and sea rescue service is not always on station

It also means a service tasked for air and sea rescue is not on station in the southeast when charged with hospital patient transfers, a sobering thought given summer holiday season and the increased activity in water based leisure pursuits.

The additional running cost of a 24/7 Regional Cardiac Care Service at UHW has been assessed at 2.9 million per annum. When one takes into account the additional fee income possible for treating private insured people who presently bypass the capacity constrained service at UHW, the reduced cost of bed days for those presently waiting in hospital to access the Waterford Cath Lab and the defrayed costs of displaced ambulance and medical personnel charged with escorting patient transfers, that figure drops significantly.

Yet the Department of Health and the Minister are intent on further reviews including a national review of PPCI (emergency heart attack intervention) before any decision or action can be taken to expand the southeast regional service.

Simple logic has been deliberately ignored

Medical based argument, unbiased scientific/ economic analysis and simple logic have deliberately been ignored in this case assessment to date. Health Equality For the South East (HEFSE) believes the only other plausible reason for undermining the case for the southeast region’s service need and/ or possibly subverting the review outcome is money, that is another’s financial self interest.

Regional and national politicians who persist in ignoring the simple facts bolstering the case for a 24/7 South East Cardiac Care service are complicit in allowing this subversion continue in HEFSE’s opinion. Over coming weeks and months, with the activity drive to commence the recently announced reviews, the identities and motivations of those driving the agenda will hopefully become clearer. The identities of those who stand to gain most and benefit from another potentially negative review outcome for a southeast regional 24/7 Cardiac Service certainly will.

Health Minister Simon Harris having declared himself “referee” in this new review game needs to show clear leadership and control of his department seniors by demonstrating that he not alone understand the rules by which this game is to be played, but that he also is prepared to “cry foul” in the event of an inaccurate score.

Many lives and political careers depend on it.

Matt Shanahan is PRO for Health Equality For the South East.

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