Cardiac service arrest leaving North West patients without rehab access

The Department of Health has told the Province's health trusts to draw up plans to save �70m
The Department of Health has told the Province's health trusts to draw up plans to save �70m

Heart attack patients from Inishowen who have been treated at a state-of-the-art cardiac unit at Altnagelvin remained this morning without access to vital rehabilitative care in their native Donegal due to equipment and staffing issues.

The Derry Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI) service for patients suffering the most severe forms of heart attack has been treating patients from over the border since May 2016.

And in just the first nine months of this arrangement the heart unit was reported to have saved at least 27 Donegal lives.

It’s been hailed as an exemplar of cross-border co-operation between the southern and northern health services and a life-saver in the North West.

But for the past seven weeks a vital cardiac after-care service provided at the Cardiology Rehab Unit at Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) for patients returning home from Altnagelvin and other hospitals has been closed due to malfunctioning heart monitors.

While the Western Trust has an agreement with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to treat heart attack patients in Altnagelvin it’s up to the southern health service to provide follow up care in the Republic of Ireland.

Fianna Fáil T.D. Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher has claimed Donegal patients returning from treatment in Derry and elsewhere are being let down by the HSE and the Department of Health.

Although 50,000 euros has been pledged for a new telemetry monitor, Deputy Gallagher said the service was still not up and running, when he spoke to the ‘Journal’ yesterday.

“The HSE has confirmed that funding has been provided for the purchase of a telemetry monitor, however, I’ll be pressurising the HSE to ensure that it’s provided quickly.

“But that’s not enough. We need a second nurse. There was a second nurse there back in 2006 but they were never replaced.

“I’m insisting that if we’re going to use this equipment to its full potential we need a second nurse.”

Deputy Gallagher said the service, which has been available in Donegal since 1999 and was formerly available for heart attack outpatients at Ballyliffin and Dungloe, is essential.

“You need after-care when you have either had a stent or have had surgery. For two to three months afterwards up to six rehabilitation sessions are needed.

“I know from people who have had surgery that his service has been most beneficial to them, so it’s a must, it’s not a luxury.

“It’s a matter of urgency and this is what has annoyed me. It didn’t seem to be urgent as far as the HSE was concerned.”

Deputy Gallagher said the opening up of the Derry PCCI unit to Donegal patients last year was a welcome development but called on the HSE to adequately staff and fund its own services in order to provide local patients with the level of care they deserve.