Updated: 10/10/16 : 07:32:13
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Halligan says briefing note was serious departmental interferance

A Department of Health briefing note for the independent clinical review of the case for a second cardiac laboratory at University Hospital Waterford said it was "not a top investment priority", according to an unredacted version seen by RTÉ News.

The 27 May 2016 note for the review author, Belfast-based consultant cardiologist Dr Niall Herity, said the priority "is to upgrade decontamination facilities, theatres, intensive care facilities and staffing" at Waterford  and to ensure that the infrastructure across the hospital group is HIQA compliant.

The original briefing note, released under a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, contained a redacted paragraph headed "Current Department and South/South West Group position on expansion of the Waterford Service".

RTÉ News has obtained a copy of the full briefing note and the redacted paragraph reads as follows: "UWH has aspirations to expand PPCI/PPI services and a business case has been prepared.

"However, the HSE has advised that the provision of a second cath lab and a 24/7 PPCI service in UHW is not a top investment priority for the South/South West Hospital Group.

"It is understood that the priority of the Group is to upgrade decontamination facilities, theatres, Intensive Care facilities and staffing, and to ensure that the infrastructrure across the Group is HIQA compliant."

The note was prepared by the Department of Health's Acute Hospital Policy Unit 3.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that the briefing note referred to was provided by the Department to Dr Herity and accurately reflects the Department's and the HSE's position on the matter, preceding the completion of Dr Herity's thorough and independent review which included broad consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.

It said the paragraph referred to was redacted on the decision of the FoI officer but was provided unredacted to  Minister John Halligan on his request.

As part of his support for the Government, Independent Alliance member and junior minister John Halligan agreed to an independent review of the need for a second cardiac laboratory at Waterford, which he has campaigned for.

The review was commissioned by the Minister for Health Simon Harris in May and the report in September did not back establishing a second cardiac laboratory and 24-hour cover.

The Programme for Government committed it to the development of a second cardiac lab at Waterford, subject to a favourable recommendation from an independent clinical review.

In a statement released this evening, Mr Halligan said the latest revelation "substantiates" his assertion that there was serious departmental interferance into Dr Herity's report, which resulted in a flawed and incomplete report.

“I have spoken to Minister for Health Simon Harris this evening and he has agreed to come to Waterford to listen to the views of local consultants and seek a way to move forward on the issue,” said Mr Halligan.

Campaigners for a second lab have criticised the Herity Report as flawed.

Dr Paddy Owens, consultant cardiologist at Waterford, has said that there have been 18 heart attacks occurring on patients on the waiting list, which might have been avoided, if there was no waiting list and there was an expanded service.

Dr Owens said the consultants had no input into the terms of reference of the Herity Review.

They had submitted two terms of reference to address key concerns but these were not included.

"What the document that has just come to light appears to show is that although we had no influence on the process of the independent review, the Department did," he said.

A cardiac lab is a specialised clinical and radiological facility designed to perform a range of diagnostic and therapeutic invasive cardiac procedures.