Up to five thousand people participated in the march for 24/7 Cardiac Care in University Hospital, Waterford on Saturday afternoon last. The march was proof positive that this is a major political issue in Waterford and the South East and it would indeed be a foolish politician who does not take on board the very strong feelings the electorate has on this crucial health service.
In a statement issued after the public meeting, Hilary O’Neill, spokesperson for the South East Patients Advocary Group said; “Firstly on behalf of the South East Patient Advocacy Group we would like to thank everybody who came out on the 14th January 2017 to demand 24/7 cardiac care at UHW. We would especially like to thank John Tobin and Tom O'Dwyer who both shared their harrowing stories with thousands of people.
The people have spoken loud and will be heard!
Ms. O’Neill continued: “We are once again calling on Minister Harris to implement a second permanent cath lab and 24/7 cardiac care at UHW without any further delay.
A mobile cath lab you might ask? SEPAG are campaigning for 24/7 cardiac care and a second permanent cath lab which is required under national guidelines to implement a 24/7 cardiac care service. Without it we cannot and will not get a 24/7 service.
This is NOT what was agreed between FG and Minister Halligan in the programme for government. Minister Halligan was promised a second cath lab and 24/7 cardiac care and it was a "done deal" and the Herity Report was only a "formality".
We can confirm that ALL our local councillors unanimously agreed at a council meeting on the 12th January 2017 to support our campaign and the march on the 14th January. We are now calling upon them, firstly, to request their counterparts in the other 4 counties that this situation affects (Kilkenny, Wexford, Tipperary & Carlow) to table and support a similar motion, and secondly, to start working together putting pressure on their respective party members in Leinster House, especially the FG councillors.
We are also calling on all TD's in the South East region to work together on this issue as it is too important an issue to be playing political games with.
We also understand that Mary Butler and David Cullinane from Waterford, Mattie McGrath & Jackie Cahill from Tipperary, Bobby Aylward, John McGuinness and John Paul Phelan from Kilkenny have all agreed to support a Motion on this issue in the Dail on Tuesday 17th January 2017. We understand also that James Brown TD from Wexford fully supports the campaign and this motion but as he had already submitted a motion he cannot speak on this issue on Tuesday. The rest of the TD's in the South East have not yet responded. We can confirm that Brendan Howlin and Mick Wallace both from Wexford have confirmed to us on a number of occasions that they fully support this campaign.
SEPAG are now demanding that there be no more political posturing around this issue. We need direct action by our local and national elected representatives on a united front and we need it as soon as possible. We need 24/7 cardiac care in the south east before any more lives are lost.”
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has joined with thousands of protesters at a rally in Waterford on Saturday last to demand the provision of 24/7 cardiac care for the people of the South East.
Deputy Cullinane, who was accompanied by Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada, said;
"The Southeast is the only region without full 24/7 emergency PPCI cover. As of yet no guarantees exist to right this wrong. It is a matter of equality and patient outcomes. This situation affects approximately 500,000 throughout Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary and Kilkenny. The campaign is completely right in its demand for the same level of cardiac care services for University Waterford as other regional hospitals.
"Patients in the Southeast who suffer a heart attack after 5pm or at weekends will still have to travel to Cork or Dublin. This is a totally unacceptable state of affairs.
"While I gave yesterday's announcement a cautious welcome, a mobile Cath Lab is not what we are looking for but is better than nothing. However, the details of what has been agreed have not been released. I have written to the Minister for Health asking for a full briefing on what is being proposed.
"The fact that the government failed to give any assurance or plans to right this wrong is further evidence that the coalition has a fundamental lack of understanding about the depth of the crisis facing the health services in the South East and throughout the state
“Since 2009, we have seen a serious lack of spend and investment at University Hospital Waterford. While demand is on the increase, capacity has been in sharp decline. The dire situation regarding cardiac services is reflective of that reality.
“What is happening in Waterford and the South East is not happening in isolation. Our public health services are being starved of resources. When we talk about capacity, we are talking about people.
"In September of this year, I drafted and published a document outlining the investment needs at University Hospital Waterford. I would again ask the Minister for Health to examine the issues raised in that document and to realise that the future of healthcare in Ireland has to be built on investment in the public system rather than on cuts, privatisation and outsourcing."
The provision of a mobile cath lab is to form part of the Government’s response to stagnant cardiology waiting lists at University Hospital Waterford, Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan T.D. has confirmed.
Agreement on the mobile lab was reached following negotiations between the Independent Alliance and Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D., who travelled to Waterford to listen to the concerns of cardiac consultants last November.
Minister Halligan said it was important for people to be clear that the mobile lab proposal was not designed as an alternative to a permanent second cath lab.
“Consultants in the south east sought the mobile lab as a counter proposal to the HSE’s plan to outsource patients to Cork”, the Minister commented. “I have been aware of this plan for some time and have been vigorously fighting against it, as was the entire Independent Alliance and we made our position clear in our talks with Minister Harris. We would not settle for services being moved out of Waterford. While this is by no means the end of the campaign for improving cardiac services in the south east, it is a big step forward.
“Minister Harris has also agreed to increased investment at UHW to allow for extra hours of operation at the existing cath lab and a further review of the situation at UHW when the mobile lab is in place.
“What I would hope is that this review will demonstrate the need for the second lab. There is a clear commitment in the Programme for Government to provide this, once we have a review recommending it.
“Locating the mobile lab at UHW will ensure we don’t have a rolling situation where the overflow waiting list in Waterford is systematically referred to Cork.”
Minister Halligan commended all those involved in organising Saturday’s protest march in the city.
“I applaud the South East Patient Advocacy Group for their huge efforts. And people should also be aware that our local trade unions paid for posters and helped put them up, all over Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford. Great credit must go to them for that. We need to keep the focus on our hospital.”