By Ciaran Murphy
The sister of a Co Waterford man who died in an ambulance on the way to a cath lab in Cork in tears told thousands at a rally how “it is incredible” that protests still need to happen.
Last June, Thomas Power (39), from Bell Lake near Dunmore East, died on a Sunday in June after being moved urgently from University Hospital Waterford to Cork University Hospital to have stents inserted. But his sister, on Saturday explained how his life could have been saved with an investment in services locally costing less than €10 per person.
Thomas was pronounced dead on arrival in an ambulance at Cork University Hospital, as he was being transported for life-saving treatment due to the lack of 24-hour cath lab cover in Waterford. Campaigners held a massive protest rally – with about 3,000 in attendance – that began at Williamstown on Saturday afternoon and made its way to UHW.
In a move seen as cynical by campaigners, the Government announced that a mobile cath lab, in place at UHW since September, would continue for another 10 weeks. While this is dealing with a backlog of scheduled appointments, the south east still has no cardiac cover after 5pm on weekdays or at weekends.
In tears, Catherine told the protesters: I just think it’s incredible in this day and age that we still have to do this.
“Come out with your stories; tell the public, tell the newspapers…because this won’t end otherwise. And I think there’s no need for a review – we don’t need a review. My brother died for less than €9.80. That’s all it costs [for] half a million people…small money; I think he’s worth more than that. And now our lives are destroyed forevermore and all your lives are in danger. You don’t realise it. It’s not right. We pay our taxes; we deserve our 24-7.”
Retired firefighter Willie Doyle, of campaigning group 24-7 Cardiac Care, added: “I cannot understand, how Leo Varadkar, a medical doctor, whose family comes from this area, can continue to deny the half-a-million people in the south east, this essential service. “I wonder, if his constituents in Castleknock, would be satisfied, to travel from Dublin to Waterford, in the event of a heart attack. And know, that every single minute spent on that road, is killing part of their heart muscle.”
Consultant Cardiologist at UHW John O’Dea said that his department “provides a regional service, and I think this can’t be under emphasised”. He added: “And by regional service, it means that we look after, or aspire to look after, the people of the south east, as best we can.” He said that this includes the surrounding counties of Wexford, Carlow, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Carlow”. “That is a massive catchment area and, as it stands, the cath lab that we have runs at full tilt.”
Independent Alliance member and Junior Skills Minister John Halligan, among other locally elected representatives, attended the march but was not invited to address the crowd.
Other speakers included Hilary O’Neill from the South East Patients’ Advocacy Group, along with campaigner Matt Shanahn and Breffini Power, whose father died from a cardiac event when he failed to get urgent attention at a cath lab locally.