A CONSULTANT cardiologist has described as “unsafe” new protocols where Limerick patients with the most serious form of heart attack are being taken by ambulance to Galway – bypassing the Mid-Western Regional Hospital – at night and at weekends.
But the HSE has said the measure – which came into effect last week – is temporary and Limerick will be part of the a new national coronary care programme “within weeks”.
And the HSE also stressed that patients in this region who have already gone into cardiac arrest will continue to be brought straight to Dooradoyle “24-7, 365 days a year”.
The HSE has cited international best practice as the reason behind the introduction of a new programme for patients with STEMI (ST elevation myocardial infarction) heart attacks – the most serious kind where the coronary artery is entirely blocked. It is estimated that around 40% of all heart attacks are STEMI.
It is now policy that such cases are brought directly to a centre with the ability to perform a particular ECG test and a procedure known as a PPCI, where a balloon is inserted in the artery to relieve the blockage.
Limerick can currently only do this Monday to Friday between the hours of 8am and 5pm, the HSE explained.
“The number of patients requiring this service out of hours in the Mid-West each year is approximately 58. It is anticipated that Limerick will become a 24-hour centre for these patients within the next few weeks as the programme is rolled out throughout the country.”
Limerick’s Live 95FM received irate calls yesterday after reporting a man from Newcastle West who had suffered a heart attack was taken by ambulance to Galway.
One of the country’s top heart specialists, Dr Brendan Meaney, said the delay in rolling out round-the-clock cover for STEMI patients in Limerick was rooted in the HSE’s failure to date to fill ancillary staff posts - including nurses and radiologists.
A PPCI procedure needs to be carried out within 90 minutes to two hours to give patients the best chance. “The idea of moving them to Galway to me seems unsafe, unrealistic and will result in disasters,” said Dr Meaney, consultant cardiologist at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.