Latest: Health Minister open to further review of cath labs after man’s death in ambulance

Update 11.59am: Health Minister Simon Harris has said that he is open to a further review on the issue of cath labs in the South East.

There have been renewed calls for a 24-hour facility in the area, after a man died en route to another hospital at the weekend.

Minister Harris said that he will always follow clinical advice on health facilities.

“I commissioned an independent clinical review in relation to the cath lab situation in Waterford,” he said.

“I followed the recommendations in full, in terms of the allocation of additional resources, and I’m now putting in place a mobile cath lab.

“As Minister, I’ll always stand by clinical recommendations. I am open, though, after the improvements that Professor Herity has made, of taking course to have a further review on the issue.”

UPDATE 11.07am: The HSE are playing with people’s lives in what is essentially a cath-lab numbers game, according to Waterford TD, David Cullinane.  

His comments come after calls for University Hospital Waterford’s (UHW) cath lab to operate a 24/7 service intensified after a man died of a heart attack on his way to Cork in an ambulance.

Thomas Power, 40, died on Sunday afternoon about 30 minutes after leaving UHW by ambulance for Cork.

Thomas Power on his wedding day to his wife Bernadette last September.

“If my brother had the heart attack today [Monday] he would be alive,” his sister, Catherine, told the Irish Examiner.

The UHW cath lab, where cardiac tests and procedures take place, only operates Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.

Several protests have taken place calling for this service to operate 24/7 and more than 110 hospital consultants have called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to open a second cath lab in UHW.

If a person is suffering a heart attack in the South-East outside of these hours they are transferred to Cork.

Mr Power had been married for nine months, had just finished building a house and his wife Bernie is expecting their first child.

“All he wanted was Bernie, the marriage, and the baby,” said Catherine. “The last words he said to her [Bernie] was, as the doors of the ambulance closed, were: ‘I love you, don’t be stressing. I’ll see you later. Mind yourself.’ ”

Catherine spoke on Joe Duffy’s Live Line yesterday afternoon, just 24 hours after her brother’s death, because she felt she “needed to do something about” the cath lab situation in Waterford.

“This is ridiculous. We want it opened 24/7,” she said.

Catherine explained the timeline of events that led to her only brother’s death.

On Sunday morning, he complained of chest pain and Bernie brought him straight into UHW. The staff immediately prepared him to travel to Cork and he was moved to an ambulance. His wife travelled to Cork with her brother, a garda, behind the ambulance.

Thomas died of cardiac arrest in the ambulance and was pronounced dead in Cork University Hospital.

“They never reached Cork,” Catherine said. “Obviously, we had to go down to Cork and see him and identify him and be with him and have our goodbyes.

“It took us three hours to get down to Cork. How is an ambulance meant to get down here on these bad roads and we have a cath lab in Waterford sitting there empty for the weekends, they won’t pay staff to put it on.”

Last Friday, it was revealed that a mobile cath lab, to clear waiting lists in Waterford, will not be operational until September, with the tendering process due to start this week.

Reacting to the news Waterford TD David Cullinane suggested the HSE were playing with people’s lives in what was essentially a cath-lab numbers game 

The Sinn Féin TD for Waterford, said that the HSE has questions to answer over primary PCI at University Hospital Waterford and its refusal to accept the reality of the South East population figures and travel times to Cork.

Deputy Cullinane said: "First of all, let me convey my condolences to the family of Thomas Power, a young man who died in an ambulance on the way to Cork because the cardiac unit in Waterford was closed.

"It is sad and shocking but unfortunately we knew that something like this was going to happen once the HSE took the decision to effectively shelve the Higgins Report and treat Waterford as an adjunct of Cork.

"Half a million people are not an adjunct.

"The sleight of hand and playing with numbers that we saw with the Herity Report was always going to cost lives.

"We need to go back to the Higgins Report and implement its findings.

“University Hospital Waterford needs to be treated by the HSE as a regional hospital.

“The present plan to have it as a general hospital simply doesn’t make sense form a clinical and regional point of view.

“I will continue to fight to have the Higgins Report put in place and for Waterford and the South East to be given the resources it needs to sustain and grow as a region."

Part of this article first appeared in the Irish Examiner website.

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