It will be September at the earliest before an office-hours-only mobile catheterisation lab is in place at University Hospital Waterford (UHW), where almost 600 patients are awaiting cath procedures (a procedure used to diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions).
While an agreement to provide the mobile lab was reached last January, the HSE will only start the tender process next week. Ger O’Callaghan, the chief operations officer for the South/South West Hospital Group, said the process “should take eight to 10 weeks”, with the expectation that the cath lab would be up and running “by September or October”.
However, it will operate 9am-5pm only and not at all at weekends. In fact, it is yet to be decided the number of days a week the lab will open. Mr O’Callaghan said the objective is to try to clear the waiting list — not to offer an out-of-hours service.
However, a number of councillors attending yesterday’s southern regional health forum queried the opening hours. Councillor Seanie Power of Waterford City and County Council asked: “Would it not make common sense to have it working Fridays and Saturdays out-of-hours?”
Mr O’Callaghan said there “hasn’t been any discussion about extending it outside of hours”, that it is being brought in “to address waiting lists initially”. However the matter will be reviewed, he said, once waiting lists have reduced.
In the meantime, UHW continues to send patients to Cork University Hospital for diagnostic angiograms (a special X-ray to see if the coronary arteries are blocked or narrowed).
So far this year, 230 patients have been referred, including 87 in January, of whom 15 required further intervention and were placed back on the waiting list for another 6-8 weeks; 128 in March, of whom 23 required further intervention and were returned to the waiting list; and 15 in May.
Figures supplied at yesterday’s forum show that, as of May 25, there were 583 patients waiting in UHW for cath procedures. Of these, 234 were waiting up to three months, 152 were waiting 3-6 months and 75 were waiting 6-9 months. Another 15 were waiting 9-12 months and a further 30 were waiting more than a year, and up to two years in some cases.
The agreement to provide a mobile cath lab was part of the Government’s response to resolve a major controversy in the south east where clinicians and patients’ groups were lobbying for a second permanent cath lab.
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