Written Answers. - Elective Cardiology Service.

Michael McDowell

Question:

61 Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Health his views on the decision of the Mater Hospital, Dublin 7, to cease elective cardiology until the end of 1994; his views on whether this means that a patient with symptoms of a heart attack will not be admitted until he or she actually suffers a heart attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [919/94]

Health boards and voluntary hospitals, upon receipt of their annual allocation from my Department, make decisions regarding the level of activity which can be supported by the hospital during the year. In the case of the Mater Hospital, the approved 1994 revenue allocation from my Department was £46.270 million, an increase of £3.825 million — 9 per cent — over the hospital's original allocation of £42.445 million for 1993.

In early 1994, the Mater Hospital made its decisions in relation to the quantum of service that would be provided by the approved allocation from my Department. However, during a subsequent review over the summer, the hospital authorities decided that the elective cardiology service should be curtailed. In making this decision, I understand that the hospital made it clear that emergency cases would continue to be treated. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the implications contained in the Deputy's question.

I am acutely aware of the prevalence of heart disease in this country. This is why, shortly after coming into office, I allocated a sum of £1 million from the 1993 waiting list fund to enable the necessary facilities to be put in place at the National Cardiac Unit, Mater Hospital, to increase the annual throughput of open heart surgery at the hospital from 750 to 1,000, an increase of 33 per cent. In addition, in 1993 and 1994, I have provided capital funds which will facilitate the doubling of cardiac surgery at Cork Regional Hospital from 200 to 400 patients each year.
I have allocated in excess of £2 million in 1994 to the Mater Hospital for cardiac surgery and related developments. The development, which was completed recently, includes additional cardiac maintenance beds, intensive care facilities and high dependency facilities required to support the cardiac surgery programme. These new facilities at the hospital have now become operational and the additional cardiac surgery activity has commenced.
The developments at the Mater Hospital, together with the developments in progress for cardiac surgery at Cork Regional Hospital, will have the effect of increasing the number of cardiac surgery operations performed on an annual basis in the public hospital sector by 47 per cent from 950 to 1,400.
In relation to cardiology services generally, I should point out that a cardiology service is also provided by other Dublin hospitals. The regional hospitals in Cork and Galway provide cardiology services and in 1994 I have sanctioned a new post of consultant cardiologist for Limerick Regional Hospital.