herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Halligan should give up or get out over cath lab row, say Alliance TDs

Junior minister John Halligan Picture: Tom Burke
Junior minister John Halligan Picture: Tom Burke

Several members of the Independent Alliance believe junior minister John Halligan should quit the Government or drop his demand for an immediate second review into cardiac services at Waterford General Hospital.

TDs within the alliance have privately voiced concerns that Mr Halligan's campaign for a second catheterisation (cath) laboratory in his constituency has severely damaged their standing in the eyes of voters.

A large number of Fine Gael ministers and backbencherss also believe the saga is proving to be a serious distraction.

Mr Halligan, a minister for state at the Department of Jobs, was due to consult his supporters further this weekend over his future.

He has received strong backing from senior medical staff at the hospital, who are urgently seeking a meeting with Health Minister Simon Harris to provide him with the compre- hensive evidence they believe exists for a second cath lab.

The doctors say they disagree with the findings of an independent review by Dr Niall Herity that said there is no justification for a second cath lab.

Waterford cardiologist Dr Patrick Owens said the report's scope was too narrow and did not take into account the risks to patients who are on waiting lists because of demands on the current cath lab services.

He also said the calculations used in relation to patient flow skewed the findings because it did not include the patients who have to travel to Dublin and Cork from the south east because they cannot be admitted to Waterford.

Referring to recommendations that the cath lab in Waterford no longer provides percutaneous coronary artery intervention (PCI) to widen the arteries in patients, including heart attack victims, and move the service to Cork, he said the reasoning was again flawed.

Dispassionate

Dr Herity defended the report yesterday and said it was produced in an independent and dispassionate manner.

He also said the fact that the lab is open from nine to five does not make a difference.

"The vast majority of work done in cath labs is pre-planned, done on a nine-to-five basis," Dr Herity told RTE's Morning Ireland.

"Ninety-six per cent of the work done in Waterford is pre-planned, with 4pc emergency work. Only a tiny amount of cath lab work is done out of hours."

Dr Herity said the cath lab was not performing the minimum number of at least 100 procedures a year to make it sustainable.

However, Dr Owens said it carried out 62 procedures during its nine-to-five opening hours last year and an additional 77 patients had to be treated in Cork out of hours.

If they were allowed longer opening hours they would easily reach the 100 case threshold, he said.

As Mr Halligan remained in the Government, the issue continued to dominate the political cycle.

Such is the level of frustration among his colleagues that several Independent sources confirmed they would be prepared for Mr Halligan to leave the Government rather than allow the matter to drag on.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny urged Mr Halligan and other ministers to start "applying themselves".

Mr Halligan did not responded to calls last night.

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