A band of people led by the sisters of a farmer who died in an ambulance on its way to Cork left the front door of University Hospital Waterford yesterday and walked along the last road he travelled on.
Tom Power’s death six months ago shocked the nation when it emerged he was transferred from the hospital in Waterford to Cork because its catheterisation lab was closed for the weekend.
Over Christmas, it emerged that the cath lab where emergency cardiac care is carried out was closed for two days due to an equipment fault.
A spokesperson for South/South West Hospitals Group later confirmed that it was fully operational again on Friday.
However, the cath lab only operates from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and campaigners have been calling for 24-hour cath lab services for heart attack patients in the south-east.
Univesity Hospital Waterford is the only primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) centre in the country with one cath lab.
PCI is a non-surgical procedure used to treat narrowing (stenosis) of the coronary arteries of the heart found in coronary artery disease.
Last September a mobile cath lab arrived at the hospital, but it does not cater for emergency cases.
Minister of state and local TD John Halligan has argued that the output of the mobile laboratory shows two cath labs are needed.
Tom’s sister, Catherine Power, said she organised the demonstration to make people aware of the vital need for a second cath lab in Waterford.
“It is our first Christmas without Tom, and we want to remember him by walking along the last road he would have been alive on,” she said.
“The cath lab would have saved Tom if it was open the day he went to the hospital with chest pains. When they put him in an ambulance, he only had 13 minutes left to live. “
Tom, 40, died during the ambulance journey from Waterford to Cork.
“This is our first Christmas without Tom, and it is very tough,” said Catherine.
“I never knew until now what people meant when they said Christmas was a hard time for them. It was very lonely, very sad and very upsetting for us.
“We will continue to put pressure on the Government to do the right thing and establish a second cath lab.”
Catherine said Tom, the only boy in the family, had worked the farm with their parents, Eileen and Michael.
“He looked after our parents so well, and they miss him greatly,” she said. “How many more people like Tom have to die? Our family has been destroyed by Tom’s death. My parents have very little to live for now — Tom was their whole life.”
About 50 people turned out for the awareness walk yesterday. Local politicians were invited, but Catherine said none turned up.
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