The urgent need for a specialised heart failure unit in Cork has been raised in a special debate in Dail Eireann by Cork East Fine Gael TD, David Stanton. Currently services and supports for heart failure patients in Cork are very limited as no dedicated unit has been opened despite plans for one since 2011.
“In 2008 Cork University Hospital (CUH) opened a very limited heart failure clinic but this clinic falls far behind the level required under the HSE National Heart Failure Programme. In fact, just 10-15 patients are seen per week with no new patients having been accepted since 2011. Despite the inclusion of a specialised unit for CUH in the HSE National Service Plan in 2011 due to funding issues and recruitment restrictions none has been established. Heart Failure patients in Cork, and their families, are suffering greatly due to a lack of a fully operational heart failure unit here”, said Deputy Stanton.
“This week I attended the launch of a report “The Cost of Heart Failure in Ireland” which highlighted the rise in heart failure diagnoses and the disparity of services across the country. Approximately 90,000 people are living with heart failure and a further 145,000 have been described as having impending heart failure. The report estimates that the direct cost to the HSE of heart failure patients is €158 million per annum with the total cost to society of €660 million.
“Heart failure patients themselves have noted in the report the extremely negative impact of their diagnoses on their mental health and well-being. Some 63% of patients report symptoms that are consistent with depression and 40% of patients struggle to socialise or engage in daily routine activities with friends or family. Over 60% of heart failure patients report difficulty with recreational past-times, sports or hobbies. The report also found that less than 1% of patients are referred for cardiac rehabilitative services.
“The report describes the disparity of services as a ‘post-code’ lottery and notes that survival trends and hospital re-admission rates “dramatically” impacted by “patchy” distribution of hospital services. There are 12 heart failure units operating across the country now – 6 of these in Dublin and 6 elsewhere. The nearest unit for people in Cork is in Limerick. The Clinical Director of the HSE Heart Failure Programme, Professor Kenneth McDonald has described services in Cork and Kerry as the “most poorly resourced” and I understand that he has sought resources for the CUH unit as a priority for the HSE 2016 Service Plan.
“I raised the issue in Dail Eireann today to see if a commitment could be given to allocate resources to the Heart Failure Unit in Cork. I understand that as little as €300,000-€400,000 is required every year to run a unit which in terms of health spending is not very costly. Given the improved outcomes for patients who have access to specialist services with regard to quality of life and treatment in the community it is money well spent. I believe this service is essential for patients in Cork and Kerry and should be a priority for the HSE South in 2016”, concluded Deputy Stanton.