Resignation threats from John Halligan have bounced the Government into agreeing to a second review of cardiac services at Waterford Hospital to appease the junior minister and his supporters.
It has also emerged that the Independent Alliance minister was openly promising constituents on his Facebook page in June that jobs and funds were on the way for a second catheterisation laboratory at the hospital.
Mr Halligan effectively said that his political future would be decided by local consultants and clinicians now examining a review of care at the hospital.
This independent review, released after Mr Halligan threatened to quit, did not recommend the hospital get a second cath lab for patients. Instead, improved staffing levels and equipment were pledged by the Government.
However, Health Minister Simon Harris also agreed to a fresh review at Waterford.
“During this period of investment and enhancement of services, the situation will be closely monitored,” he said. “To assess the impact these improvements have had on the volume of patients attending the cath lab, I will have a further independent review carried out in early 2017.”
Mr Halligan had criticised the terms of the first Herity review and said it was “flawed” and did not properly take account of the population in the region.
His criticism and threat to resign has now forced the Government into agreeing to conduct a second review of Waterford’s cardiac services, which leaves the door open for a second lab.
This was also confirmed by Housing Minister Simon Coveney, who denied that there had been any “trickery” or false promises in the pre-government talks for a second lab.
Last night, Mr Halligan told RTE’s Prime Time programme he was shocked when told of the contents of a briefing note given to Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Niall Herity, the author of an independent review into the provision of a second cath laboratory for Waterford University Hospital.
The briefing note was given to Dr Herity just after he started the review and was, according to RTE, prepared by the HSE’s Acute Hospital Policy Unit. The note told him: “It has been the view of the Department that providing additional facilities and extending PPCI (angioplasty) services, in a geographical area which does not have the population base to justify such a service, would be wasteful of very limited resources.
“Such a unit might struggle to achieve the levels of activity essential to maintain operator and unit competency, potentially compromising patient safety. Staffing an extended service might also represent a challenge.”
Mr Halligan said the note was “a gross interference with an independent review”.
He said he had expected any briefing documents to deal with the issues he was assured the review would consider - in particular the clinical risks for patients in Waterford who present for emergency cardiac care as well as those patients who currently wait up to 10 days for cardiac procedures that should be done within 24 hours and others waiting for over a year for elective procedures.
‘We understood these issues would be in the terms of reference but when we got the review we were very taken aback to learn that they were not included,’ he told RTE Prime Time.
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