The death of Waterford man Thomas Power, who died of a heart attack in an ambulance on his way to Cork, has been described as a “national disgrace”.

Mr Power, 40, had presented to University Hospital Waterford (UHW) with a pain in his chest on Sunday but was sent to Cork because the cath lab was not open in his home county.

The UHW cath lab, where cardiac tests and procedures take place, only operates Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.

He died 20 minutes into the journey.

Locals have gathered more than 5,000 signatures in less than 24 hours to lobby the Taoiseach to open round-the-clock cardiac care in Waterford.

Several protests have taken place calling for this service to operate 24/7 and more than 110 hospital consultants have previously called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to open a second cath lab in UHW. If a person is suffering a heart attack in the South-East outside of office hours they are transferred to Cork.

“It shouldn’t have happened to that poor chap. It’s a national disgrace,” said Willie Doyle, whose daughter Jennifer Pheasey, 41, had a heart attack at 4.30pm on a Friday two years ago.

“We were told that if it had happened an hour later she wouldn’t have survived. I’d be less a daughter, her children would be less a mother, and her husband would be less a wife,” he told the Irish Examiner.

Mr Doyle set up the group 24/7 Cardiac Cover for the South-East after his family’s experience with cardiac care in UHW.

“There’s a joke down here that goes: ‘How are you fixed after 5 o’clock?’ There are parts of Wexford that haven’t a snowball’s chance of getting to Cork or Dublin within the 90 minutes,” he said.

Mr Harris was asked about extending cardiac care in UHW in light of the recent incident. He said he is following the report written by consultant cardiologist Niall Herity, who found that UHW did not need a cath lab open 24/7, but said that if the evidence changed, he would change his view.

“Professor Herity looked at distances, looked at times and Professor Herity as an independent person, eminently qualified, arrived at this conclusion,” said Mr Harris.

“If the evidence changed I’d change my position, but the evidence so far in the Herity report which is independent is very clear.”

Meanwhile, several locals TDs have again called for 24/7 cardiac care in UHW, following the death of Mr Power.

“The recommendations from the Herity Report — that a second catheterisation laboratory was unnecessary at UHW and that UHW’s acute heart attack cases be brought to Cork — are deeply flawed,” said Independent TD for Waterford John Halligan. “Patient safety is being compromised while cardiac services in Waterford and the South-East are under-resourced.”

As reported in this paper, a second mobile facility is due to open in September, but only on a 9am-5pm basis and Monday to Friday.

Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane said the HSE was playing with people’s lives in a cath lab numbers game.


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