Hundreds gather for protest over cardiac services in Waterford

Demonstrators are demanding access to 24-hour cardiac care in the south east of the country

Hundreds gather for protest over cardiac services in Waterford

Protesters outside Leinster House demanding 24-hour cardiac care services in the south east, 04-07-2017. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Hundreds of people have gathered outside Leinster House this afternoon demanding round-the-clock cardiac care in the South-East of the country.

Calls for the introduction of a 24-hour Cath-Lab in Waterford were re-ignited following the death of 39-year-old Thomas Power at the end of June.

Mr Power died near Dungarvan while being transferred by ambulance to Cork Hospital.

His family and campaigners believe he would have survived if proper cardiac facilities were available in the area.

The current cath lab in Waterford is only open between office hours during the week - leaving residents with no cardiac-care cover within a 100-mile radius at the weekends and after 5pm in the evenings.

Oireachtas briefing

Politicians from around the south-east of the country joined the protestors today ahead of an Oireachtas briefing on the situation.

Members of Mr Power's family addressed the gathered politicians, alongside a number of clinicians and campaign groups. 

The Health Minister Simon Harris did not attend the briefing, a decision campaigners claimed was disrespectful to Mr Power's family.

Abandoned

Speaking on Newstalk this morning, Hilary O'Neill spokesperson for the South East Patient Advocacy Group said Mr Power's death has really affected the community adding that local people feel abandoned.

"[They are] very, very frightened," she said. "This could happen to any of us."

"It really has epitomised that nobody is immune to this; it is not an age thing, anybody can have a heart attack at any time of the day or night."

"None of us can say we are going to have a heart attack between 9pm to 5pm Monday to Friday so really we do need this service and we need to have it implemented as soon as possible."

"We can't afford to let anybody else die in an ambulance on the side of the road."

Ambulance cover

The protest comes as new figures reveal many counties are facing serious shortages in ambulance cover.

There are just two ambulances on day shifts in Carlow, Leitrim and Longford every day, while Sligo, Monaghan and Laois are in the same predicament at certain times.

Carlow, Sligo, Meath, Longford, Donegal, and Laois meanwhile sometimes have just one ambulance on night duty.

The issue of Waterford's cardiac-care services was raised in the Dáil during leaders questions this afternoon with Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin questioning why a HSE report recommending a second Cath-Lab for the region had not been acted upon.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar again expressed his sympathy Mr Power's family but refused to comment on the case.

He said the HSE had invested extra money in the facilities that are currently available in Waterford - adding that the executive had issued a tender for a mobile cath lab for the area.