Health Minister Simon Harris has said he does not believe that the risk rating relating to cardiac services at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) was changed prior to an independent review of the facility.
The minister was speaking following reports that UHW’s risk rating was adjusted before an independent assessment of services was carried out by cardiologist Professor Niall Herity.
The Herity report suggested there was no need for a second cath lab — an examination room with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualise arteries — at UHW.
Independent minister of state John Halligan was one of thousands of people who marched in protest at facilities at UHW at the weekend, and Mr Halligan had previously suggested he would resign from the Government if a second lab was not provided.
Mr Halligan was due to join Mr Harris at the official opening of Health Innovation Hub in Cork yesterday, but did not attend.
Speaking at the Hub at UCC, Mr Harris said that he would act in accordance with the recommendations of the Herity report.
“I’ve been trying to seek some clarity on this and I don’t actually believe that the risk register has been changed at all in the last six months,” he said.
“I believe the way that risk was categorised at both the hospital level and at the hospital group level may have been somewhat different. However, I can say to you very clearly that this didn’t have an impact on Professor Herity’s report.
“I have met Professor Herity, he went in independently as a clinical expert in this area and he looked at the situation, he engaged with clinicians in Waterford, he visited Waterford, he looked at all the data, he made his decision.”
Mr Harris said he does not believe that any difference between the hospital’s rating and the hospital group’s rating had any bearing on the Herity report’s recommendations.
“I don’t believe that to be a factor, I stand over the Herity report and that’s why I published it in full,” he said.
“You couldn’t have got more independent than Professor Neil Herity. He has carried out his review, I’ve published that review in full and let’s be clear, because sometimes this gets lost in the chatter of local medical politics; the review does suggest that there are a number of things that need to happen in University Hospital Waterford. These are issues that the government will address.
“It says very clearly that there needs to be more staff at the cath lab, it says very clearly that there needs to be new equipment in the cath lab, it says very clearly that the cath lab’s opening hours need to be extended. It just doesn’t say that there’s a need for a second one.
“What I want to do now is, rather than engaging in any sort of political row here, I want to get on with making the improvements that Prof Herity recommends, investing in the hospital in Waterford.
“I look forward to visiting it in the coming weeks and then, what I have said to the people of Waterford and I say very clearly to them again is let’s then look at the impact of those improvements on the volume and number of people using the cath lab next year,” said Mr Harris.
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