AS hundreds of people took to the streets demanding a round-the-clock cardiology service at University Hospital Waterford (UHW), a new crisis has arisen over waiting lists there.
Latest figures reveal more than 6,600 people are on the outpatient waiting list at the hospital and 1,655 of them have been waiting more than 18 months for an appointment.
Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler called on the Health Minister Simon Harris to come up with a plan to deal with excessive waiting lists.
These figures are truly astounding and point to a system which is absolutely creaking at the seams
“These figures are truly astounding and point to a system which is absolutely creaking at the seams,” she said.
“An 18 month wait is too long for any patient to be expected to endure, particularly when many of these patients are older people with reduced mobility who are waiting for hip and knee replacements. Their quality of life is being severely reduced for months, and possibly years, and that is not acceptable.
“I have previously advocated for a special task force within the National Treatment Purchase Fund to examine waiting lists for older people and I would once again call on Minister Harris to consider this proposal.”
Saturday’s’s protest in Dublin sought to raise the lack of interventional care at UHW, where a permanent catheterisation lab operates from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and a temporary cath lab at the hospital offers a diagnostic service but cannot treat patients.
Protesters carried placards saying that cardiac death is “a southeast reality” and another said: “Fine Gael. Fine Mess.”
Another placard reminded protesters of figures from a Prime Time Investigates programme, which showed that 98 per cent of patients who need to be transferred to cardiac centres outside the region failed to make it within 90 minutes, believed to be the crucial time.
The country is still waiting for this government to give us an effective health service
Tom Creedon, secretary with the Waterford Council of Trade Unions, was at the march.
“The country is still waiting for this government to give us an effective health service,” he said. “We’re here on a march because for 75 per cent of the time the cath lab is closed.”
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada, meanwhile, has said “years of bad government policy is directly responsible for the crisis in our hospitals.”
Ms Ní Riada made the remarks following a week which saw the highest number of patients on trolleys so far this year.The Ireland South MEP said that the Government and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar prefer to deflect rather than address what she described as the “blindingly obvious reality of the crisis.”