Wednesday, February 03, 2021

THE past decade has been politically difficult for Waterford. Power resided elsewhere in the region and the effort needed to lobby government was immense. The number of times people were forced onto the streets for hospital services was outrageous.

Have Limerick or Galway people ever had to march the streets for anything? Ever?

People are sick of being led by the nose, of endless political promises of future delivery that never seem to arrive as the system reverts to a well-used play book. Vote for us and everything will be fine. Have patience and we will deliver. Don’t complain, we are “working in the background”. Bah!

When Deputy Matt Shanahan questioned Minister for Further Education Simon Harris in the Dáil a couple of weeks ago about funding for the proposed new Technological University (TUSE), he got the standard reply.

Harris, forgetting that €30m has been pushed into Carlow IT in the past decade while his FG government halted all capital investment at WIT, said: “Waterford will see additional benefit in terms of investment, campus size, course range and research” after the TUSE is established in a region which has now been extended by him to include Laois, Wicklow and Kildare!

This was greeted locally with a groan of exasperation. Where did we hear similar from a minister or his Sir Humphreys before?

The hospital group strategy of UCC’s Professor John Higgins, delivered by James Reilly, the FG minister for ruining the health services, contained innumerable promises for WRH. If it would only surrender itself into the tender embraces of Cork.

Prof Higgins and his upper echelon HSE colleagues in Cork plus the leadership of UCC have been utterly discredited. They brought UHW reps to Dublin, ostensibly to promise them the world, like the devil on the mountain top tempting Jesus, but the reality was a “take it or leave it” farce, undermining UHW as a Model 4 hospital.

Nothing “promised” has been delivered except an offensive UCC sticky sign on a totem pole outside UHW indicating a name change. It serves to remind us of our vassalage. Fool me once etc.

There were political orgasms in the local party establishments at the funding for the North Quays, €25m per annum for four years. Welcome certainly, but look at the context.

Design work for new Dublin Bus routes has cost €50m so far. A single new Cork elective hospital will cost an estimated €77m to €150m before 2024 (plus the usual massive over run).

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris.

Money without end is hosed at the National Children’s Hospital (NCH) without a scintilla of civil service or political responsibility. The Secretary General of the Department of Health, in whom responsibility for every shilling spent on health in this country resides, was Jim Breslin.

He maintained the NCH development board (whose chair has recently resigned) was responsible and therefore his department avoided blame for the debacle that unfolded on his watch. He was paid €211,000 per annum. His replacement Robert Watt is to be paid €292,000 per annum. For not having responsibility for the Children’s Hospital building project?

Mr Breslin escaped from the Angola that is the Department of Health with Simon Harris to be Secretary General at the Department of Further Education.

The two people who oversaw a massive increase in cardiology waiting lists at UHW and who were party to the sinister delay on delivery of a second cath lab are in residence in the Department of Further Education where the future of WIT is up for grabs.

Fear not. All that is required now is that we get into bed with Carlow and everything will be OK.

The dogs in the street know that Carlow IT is about one third of WIT. In terms of research the ratio is dramatic with WIT at €22m and Carlow at €2m. Carlow’s mission is to deal with those students who do not make it to any of the six universities in the nearby Dublin commuter zone.

The Department of Further Education, who pulled Tom Boland out of some magic hat as facilitator in the TUSE scheme are not innocent bystanders in the undermining of WIT.

The only people who won’t see past the legerdemain are our government Oireachtas members Butler, Cummins and Ó Cathasaigh.

Will any of our tone-deaf political triumvirate put their future on the line for “Waterford University”, to insist that the TUSE HQ is based in this city?

Our government trio (and their political aspirations) must understand that even the most moderate of people in Waterford are now suggesting that WIT should walk away from the whole TUSE process if the HQ is proposed for anywhere but here.

Anyone in Waterford politics who accepts such a humiliation should (and will) be looking for another occupation.

Meanwhile, the number of cardiac patients waiting for an outpatient appointment at UHW increased from 728 in December 2017, to 891 in December 2018, 1,209 in December 2019 and 1,459 in August 2020. That is a staggering 100% increase.

Inpatient and day case numbers went from 228 in 2018 to 322 in 2020. The number of outpatients waiting over 12 months increased from 97 in 2017, to 489 in 2020. These shocking numbers reinforce the need for a second Cath Lab, 24/7 PPCI and an extension of bed capacity at UHW.

Recent reportage by Darren Skelton highlighted the PR blackout enforced on UHW by our glorious leaders in Cork.

On Monday, January 25 there were 131 patients with Covid-19 in University Hospital Waterford. Put that figure into context: UHW has 405 in-patient beds, 119 day beds/cases and 1,955 members of staff. Cork University Hospital currently has 136 Covid positive patients but has 628 in-patient beds, 108 day beds/places and 4,055 staff members (statistics from WIT’s Dr Ray Griffin).

Speaking on Morning Ireland on January 25, Chief Operations Officer for the South/ Southwest Hospital Group, (for the group mind you, not for Cork) Dr Orla Healy said that Cork University Hospital was under “particular pressure”, but that CUH was dealing with a lot of absent staff due to Covid-19 and the situation was being managed.

There wasn’t a whisper or a mention about the situation at UHW which is the second largest hospital in the SSWH Group.

According to UHW manager Grace Rothwell on WLR: “we were recorded as the hospital in the country with the highest number of positive Covid-19 patients, with 127 on 26th January”!

This Cork exceptionalism is typical of the FU situation emanating from HSE SSWHG HQ in Wilton over the past few years.

They have starved UHW of resources for their own aggrandisement and with the Taoiseach and two senior ministers in situ there, they have political cover for their awful mendacity. Something has to change.

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