THE University of Limerick Hospitals Group is unable to provide minimally invasive surgery that would transform the lives of around 40 patients who are not well enough to have open heart valve surgery.

The issue has been highlighted by Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey who asked Health Minister Simon Harris to provide the €500,000 required to enable the cardiology department at University Hospital Limerick to treat patients from the Mid West who are awaiting keyhole heart valve replacement surgery.

“I have made representations on behalf of a constituent who was considered too high risk for an Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR) procedure but suitable for a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI). This minimally invasive surgical procedure repairs the valve without removing the old, damaged valve,” Deputy Carey explained.

“However I have now been informed by UL Hospitals Group chief executive Professor Colette Cowan that patients from Clare, Limerick and Tipperary who require a TAVI procedure have to be referred by a Consultant Cardiologist to either the Mater Hospital in Dublin or Galway University Hospital.

“In a letter I received in response to a parliamentary question, Professor Cowan confirmed that both the Mater and Galway hospitals manage their own waiting lists which means that  patients from the Mid West are not prioritised,” Deputy Carey revealed.

Responding on behalf of the Health Service Executive, Professor Cowan said she consulted with the relevant staff in relation to Deputy Carey’s concerns and was in a position to clarify that UL Hospitals Group does not currently provide a TAVI service for patients.

“The Group has made a submission to the HSE, National Acute Hospitals Division for the

development of a new TAVI service for the Mid West region in 2018 as part of the Estimates Process. We await a decision on the provision of funding which we expect towards the end of 2017,” she concluded.