Author of University Hospital Waterford cardiac services review stands by findings

The author of a controversial review of cardiac services at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) says he still believes that 24/7 care is not a “sustainable solution”.

Dr Niall Herity, clinical director of cardiology at the Belfast Hospital Trust, strongly defended his review when he appeared before the Oireachtas joint committee on health.

Dr Herity said a second catheterisation laboratory, or cath lab, an examination room with equipment to examine a heart and treat any abnormalities found was not justified.

The provision of a second cath lab was at the centre of a dispute between the Government and John Halligan, a minister of state and local Waterford TD.

Last month, Mr Halligan confirmed that UHW would get a mobile cat lab but that he would continue to campaign for a permanent second cath lab.

Mr Halligan, who was at yesterday’s committee meeting, asked Dr Herity if a HSE document had influenced his conclusion that a second cath lab was not needed.

Dr Herity said his findings were “completely independent” and did not reflect any single aspect of that background document he received from the health authority.

“Nobody tried to inappropriately influence the process, and I am happy to have reached the conclusions that I did, and they remain my conclusions.”

Dr Herity’s report, commissioned by the Minister for Health Simon Harris, concludes that patients arriving at the emergency department at UHW suffering from a heart attack should be transferred to Cork University Hospital for treatment, even though the journey by ambulance could take around 90 minutes.

Questioned by Fianna Fáil senator and GP Keith Swanick, Dr Herity said he did not believe lives were endangered and people were dying because of the absence of a second cath lab and a 24/7 cardiac service at UHW.

Also at the meeting were cardiac consultants from the south-east, led by Dr Patrick Owens, a Waterford-based cardiologist, who claimed Dr Herlihy’s review was not independent — it was constrained by its terms of reference, and was flawed.

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