Friday, June 28, 2019

University Hospital Waterford.

‘UHW has been put to the pin of its collar to provide adequate services. The waiting lists there which were so graphically detailed in last week’s edition are a testament to medical apartheid.’

 

THE extent to which any priority, acute medical need for Waterford and the South East was trumped by Cork, was fully underlined by the recent mortuary scandal at UHW (UHW: 600 post mortems per annum from four pathologists with six bays, CUH: 800 from 20 pathologists with 25 bays). The evidence is overwhelming.

Regardless of dire necessity at UHW, management at CUH and in the SSWHG always found more pressing needs in Cork. Everything for UHW passed through the Cork sieve before being long fingered. The resource starvation of UHW is a grotesque example of an organisation unable or unwilling to act equitably. The past decade has seen a grab all situation, led by Cork medical interests. UHW has been put to the pin of its collar to provide adequate services. The waiting lists there which were so graphically detailed in last week’s edition are a testament to medical apartheid. The responsibility for that surely rests with the hospital group CEO in Cork.

Last week, funding of €5.67m was approved for the new mortuary.  It will have 14 extra spaces as well as four post mortem tables. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of March 2021 and it will be operational in June 2021. SF TD David Cullinane spoke for us all when he welcomed this long overdue development. It is incredibly hard to understand how an absolute priority identified as a health and safety threat to staff and general population lingered on the HSE National Capital Plan for five years with no action. Planning permission and everything ready to go and still a Waterford project was stalled.

It seems that the project was overlooked by our Oireachtas members or not followed up with the HSE and Department of Health. It is incomprehensible as to how (or indeed why) the project was delayed, but it speaks volumes for the willingness of those in the upper echelons of the two aforementioned organisations to ignore Waterford even to the very death.

Indeed one can say with absolute certainty that had the October 2018 letter written by four consultant pathologists at UHW saying that the hospital’s mortuary was over capacity (with some dead bodies being stored on corridors) not fallen into the hands of Darren Skelton of this parish, that the project would still be on the stocks, waiting, waiting, waiting! Cork fiddled while Waterford burned?

 

Ownership

At last the council are resurfacing some city centre streets.  William Street and John Street as well as Patrick Street and others looked like moonscapes, with craters everywhere.  It’s hard to understand why the roads were allowed to disintegrate to the state they were in. Smaller towns around the county did not have the same problem. One would think that William Street, which has some of the highest volume traffic in the city, if not in the south of Ireland, would have been an absolute priority well before now. Presumably money from central government road funds was not forthcoming?  Anyway, sitting in the car in John Street and waiting for movement, the eye was drawn to the former premises of Delicato’s Restaurant, Boston Cleaners and Sinnott’s Records. These three premises sit side by side in John Street. They are in an awful state, probably the worst state of any premises in this city or indeed any other city in the country. Their current ‘presentation’ is degrading the whole street and hurts those people still in business there. It is desperately unfair. Someone must know who owns these three mortal sins and have enough influence to have them spend the few hundred Euro necessary which would clean them up and make them presentable.

 

The business plan

Prof Peter Neary (Colorectal Surgery Fellow, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio), one of the new consultant appointments at UHW, has warned that the lack of robotic surgical services there will severely affect their ability to do cancer surgeries. He has examined the department and a business case is being prepared for the required investment.

UHW is the only regional cancer centre (of eight, are we always last?) where new cutting-edge robotic technology for cancer surgeries is not in place. Robotic surgery is already happening in the other seven centres. It’s more efficient, better for patients and causes less pain. Quite obviously, without the required investment, and without robotic services and the equipment necessary to do it at UHW, then in five years’ time the hospital won’t be in a position to do cancer surgeries. The deliberate, organised drift to Cork and Dublin will continue. Week after week this sort of news breaks or emerges here, telling a tale of underfunding and resource deficits. No one is surprised at a five year wait for orthodontic referral in Waterford. There is deliberate intent somewhere in the system, led by unaccountable mandarins, to reduce UHW to county hospital status.

The Minister for Health has told David Cullinane that the hospital group fully supports the submission for the introduction of Robotic Assisted Surgery at UHW. The hospital is currently preparing a business plan, which is only in its infancy, but must be progressed quickly.  Serious investment is also required in orthopaedics and in ophthalmology which are among the busiest units of their type in the country.  HSE news that overspending on the National Children’s Hospital will have an impact on every other health capital project for five years is terrifying.

Mr Cullinane says, “I’m not sure why robotic surgery for UHW wasn’t progressed in the past, but it is now being looked at.” That’s a question we’ve asked many times.  The answer is like the Third Secret of Fatima! Meanwhile, a proposal for a new ambulance base at Galway UH was published on the e-tenders website on June 26 having never featured anywhere, ever, on published HSE Capital Plans. Obviously all pigs are equal, but some more equal than others!

 

Volatility in Fine Gael

The Deasy debacle was bound to surface before the general election. The recent local elections brought complaints from all parts of the constituency about our TD.  This was especially noticeable in the west of the county where criticism of Mr Deasy has long been muted. His office in Dungarvan is staffed by people who are experts at what they do. Everyone knows this and more than anything else, when the man was absent, as he invariably was and is, his local office kept the representations and the letters flowing.

There is some sense around the place that the reality of Irish politics is dawning on Waterford people. Projects need to be pushed. Political influence is paramount. One time, information was the privilege of the few and was disseminated carefully. Waterford suffered as a result. Forty years of Deasyism and Kenneallyism have produced very little. The internet and social media have blown the information paradigm to kingdom come. Everything you need to know about anything (well almost everything) is readily available. Figures for investment, jobs, house prices, acute medicine, cardiology etc, all eventually emerge. People see the facts and figures and make the local comparisons. The differences are now in plain sight.

The next election will be a local blood bath.  People suggest Mr Deasy will not run again. I doubt he would be elected if he did. His failure to publicly involve himself in the biggest ever political/medical issue in this constituency (24/7 cardiology) is seen by people in the city as especially awful.  The Taoiseach has announced he will intervene to solve the current internecine feuding amongst local Fine Gael members. He probably has his eye on two seats here in the next election. He must move quickly.

 

Maritime Festival

Wexford will hold a maritime festival on June 29. Good luck to them. Waterford had a very successful maritime festival for some years and it had real potential. The quays in Waterford and the availability of suitable berthage, which is very limited in Wexford town, made Waterford a very suitable site for a maritime event.

It was always nice to see naval ships from various countries here and the fact that we had held the Tall Ships on two occasions gave us a real edge in publicity terms. It would be nice to revisit the idea again if only to ensure that we do not forget our maritime history. Talking of which, it is difficult to believe that New Ross Port is to cease to exist as an independent entity. Less than a generation ago Waterford Port had almost destroyed itself, its reputation and that of the city as a whole while New Ross was thriving.

It is painful to even think about it. Happily it is now in the past and the Port of Waterford is going from strength to strength with a strong management team and board in place. Wexford County Council will hand the operation of New Ross port to the Port of Waterford with a memorandum of understanding in place. The number of ships using New Ross has dropped to around 100 or less in recent years as Waterford has regained custom and expanded. It will be interesting to see how matters develop in the coming years. I believe that the future for New Ross is in leisure shipping and its associated tourism potential.

 

SSHWG board

As part of the Higgins proposals in 2012, UHW was promised three seats on the South/ South West Hospital group board to be formed as part of the hospital group realignment. That commitment was never delivered upon and instead the SSWHG board of 10 has been constituted by seven people with Cork connections, with just one person to represent the interests of UHW! This is a gross inequity to the second largest hospital in the overall group and forms part of the reason why Cork interests always supersede the interests of UHW in overall management decision making and resourcing.

UCC Professor Deirdre Madden, presently a board member of SSWHG, has been moved to the HSE board by Simon Harris. This creates a vacancy on the SSWHG board and it is essential this seat is filled by somebody representing the interests of UHW!

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