The Tanáiste, Leo Varadkar TD, says he has not been briefed on any intentions to downgrade vascular services at University Hospital Waterford from a 5-day to 3-day service.
Deputy Varadkar was speaking in response to concerns raised by Waterford Independent TD Matt Shanahan during Leader’s Questions in the Dáil yesterday.
A report in this week’s Waterford News & Star has outlined that a review undertaken by the South / South West Hospital Group will see Cork University Hospital (CUH) developed as the Arterial Centre for the region.
Deputy Shanahan was irate upon learning this, and said that the needs of Waterford have once again been ignored.
"This morning, we heard about a downgrade of vascular surgical services at University Hospital Waterford. That came on the back, I would say, of another steered report that has again ignored completely the population demographics down there; the fact that we have a rising population; the fact that we have a model 4 interventional cardiology and oncology service; and the fact we have one of the busiest trauma units in the country; and the fact that we have one of the busiest orthopaedic services in the country. Yet again, there was another steered report to send services up the road to Cork and take them out of Waterford."
Deputy Shanahan also criticised the government's stance regarding a second cath lab in the county - referring to recent comments made to WLR by Mr. Varadkar. The Independent TD questioned what the Tanáiste really knows, despite what has been repeatedly said.
"A couple of days ago, the Tánaiste made a reference to difficulties in recruitment to the cath lab in University Hospital Waterford. This - when, in fact, interview panels were not even put together. Applications were not even made available for the jobs because they are not even advertised. The Tánaiste has been getting briefings and in the past he sometimes suffered from getting failed briefings from the South-South West Hospital Group. What I really want to know is when will the Government start to defend the south-east region model 4 hospital with adequate finance and capital? When will it publish some funding strategy for University Hospital Waterford?"
Speaking in response to Deputy Shanahan's concerns, the Fine Gael leader expressed his concern with the ongoing situation in Waterford. Varadkar said he is not aware of the apparent issues facing vascular services.
"I am not up to date nor have I been briefed on the issue relating to vascular services in Waterford, and I will check up on that. I got the Deputy's email the other day regarding the staffing of the second cath lab in Waterford University Hospital not having proceeded. I'm concerned about that too and I have spoken to the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, and Senator Cummins about it. I will look into that further. It is important get on with staffing the second cath lab in Waterford University Hospital."
When Deputy Varadkar mentioned that 'staffing is difficult', he was interrupted by Deputy Shanahan. Deputy Shanahan responded 'that is why what we advertise counts'.
Mr. Varadkar took the opportunity to defend the government's record of investment in UHW and the health service in general. He again pointed to issues within the recruitment process.
"There are not many people in Ireland or the world who are currently looking for employment in the cardiology space. We need to begin that recruitment process to recruit as many staff as we can. We need to extend the hours of that service. That is something on which the Deputy can be sure I will follow up. With regard to the health service generally, the fact is that investment in our health service is unprecedented. The figure is €22 billion this year, which is 50% more than when I was Minister for Health. That was not that long ago. More staff and doctors are working in our health service than ever before. We have 1,000 more beds than two years ago. There have also been significant investments in the south east. The Dunmore Wing and second cath lab are part of that."