Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Taoiseach): Statements
Leo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
I thank Deputy Shanahan for his remarks. In particular, I echo his words of thanks to that great Waterfordman Dan Mulhall, our ambassador in the United States, who has done a lot of work getting people safely home.
As the Deputy is probably aware, my Department is made up of 150 civil servants. While they are great people, I am afraid they just do not have the wherewithal to take on the project management of specific projects, be they associated with catheterisation laboratories, motorways or other infrastructural works. It is, however, a matter in which I have an interest. I am as frustrated as the Deputy and, indeed, Senator Cummins over how difficult it has been to get the second catheterisation laboratory built in Waterford and how slow the process has been. I will continue to pursue it in the term of this Government, and the next if I am part of it. I know the Deputy will also.
I am advised by the HSE that there has not been a break in continuity for cardiology patients in UHW. The new catheterisation laboratory in the Whitfield is welcome and ensures there is a more stable solution while we await the building of the second laboratory in the university hospital.
A further consultant interventional cardiologist is in the final stages of recruitment through the Public Appointments Service. The HSE advises me that an additional interventionist will allow for a seven-day service from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the existing catheterisation laboratory. Interviews for this position took place on 27 January so I hope it will come to fruition.
The South/South West hospital group has advised that the existing cath lab is being prioritised for upgrading. This decision was based on an assessment conducted by the national clinical head of medical devices on the history and age profile of the equipment in the lab and a number of incidents of equipment failure in 2019. It advises that a number of options were explored and that, following this exercise, it was agreed by all stakeholders to work in partnership with UPMC Whitfield and reach a service level agreement to use its newly constructed cath lab in Waterford for the duration of the upgrade. The Minister for Health is proceeding with the provision of a second cath lab in Waterford based on the HSE's preferred option for its location and operation. As set out in the appraisal, the preferred option is for a second cath lab associated with a 12-bed day ward delivering six additional beds on the roof of the existing cardiology department, which will operate five days a week and provide diagnostic services.
The HSE has advised that funding was allocated in the 2019 capital plan for the provision of the second cath lab in Waterford. That money was carried over to 2020 and on 9 January planning permission was received by Waterford City and County Council. The HSE further advises that preparation of the contract documents has now commenced, contractor selection is under way, the tender will be complete by the end of July and it is expected that construction will commence in October with a ten to 12-month programme. The HSE notes that the works and schedules were delayed due to Covid-19. That is the updated position. I know that Deputy Shanahan, other Deputies from Waterford and Senator Cummins will pursue the matter. Given that this has taken so long, I fully appreciate that nobody in Waterford will believe it will happen until it does happen, but I will continue to take an interest in and pursue the matter.