herald

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Thomas Power's tragic death won't be last if cath lab closures continue

Thomas and Bernie Power
Thomas and Bernie Power

Just over a week ago, Thomas Power, a 40-year-old farmer, was rushed in a car driven by his pregnant wife, Bernie, to hospital in Waterford. He was suffering from chest pains.

On arrival at the hospital they were told the cath lab cardiac service unit was closed for the weekend.

Thomas would have to be taken by ambulance to Cork University Hospital, where one was in operation. He died of cardiac arrest before he got there.

Following his tragic death, his sister, Catherine Power, spoke with Joe Duffy on RTE's Liveline programme, telling of the grief, desolation and anger of the Power family at their terrible loss.

It was a heartbreaking interview.

Suffering

Catherine spoke of the death of her brother and the grief and suffering it had inflicted on his wife, his aged parents and his extended family.

Her anger was directed at Waterford Hospital for its inexcusable and inexplicable decision to shut down life-saving cardiac services after 5pm on weekdays and at weekends.

Her eloquent and powerful condemnation of this insane policy upset many callers, who were up in arms about such a sorry state of affairs.

What is even more baffling is the fact that, during the phone-in, it was revealed that it would take only a relatively paltry €2.5m to keep the unit open and fully-staffed at weekends.

In the vast, multi-billion euro budget of the HSE, this would amount to a drop in the ocean.

Despite repeated pleas from concerned pressure groups - including the vast majority of doctors and consultants - Health Minister Simon Harris remains deaf to their concerns.

Mr Harris dismisses all criticism on the grounds that he is relying on the report of a study he commissioned several years ago, carried out by Dr Niall Herity.

Dr Herity recommended in that report the closure regime at Waterford, especially on weekends.

Mr Harris is not for turning. The Herity report is viewed as a holy writ.

That is despite almost 100pc of doctors and consultants in the south-east believing the Herity Report is flawed because its terms of reference were too narrow and restrictive.

It was based on his conclusion that a quarter-of-a-million people were dependent on this service, whereas the real figure is close to half-a-million.

Dr Herity also believes that cardiac patients in emergency can be transferred from Waterford to Cork in 90 minutes.

Fire Brigade experts and other professionals have flatly contradicted this.

Shameful

Medics agree it is imperative that cardiac patients are treated within 90 minutes.

Waterford is the only major hospital in the country that does not have 24/7 cardiac cover.

It is frankly inconceivable and shameful that in this modern republic of ours the people of the south-east are denied this life-saving service.

It's no wonder these people are up in arms at being treated like second-class citizens.

As things stand, it would appear the only advice from the dysfunctional health service is: "If you live in the south-east, don't have a heart attack after 5pm on weekdays and not at the weekend."

If this crazy policy in Waterford Hospital is not reversed, there will be many more deaths like Thomas Power's.

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