It’s been announced that the Rescue 117 helicopter is no longer permitted to transfer cardiac care patients from Waterford to Cork University Hospital.

The news comes as a further hit to University Hospital Waterford and cardiac care services in the South East region.

Recently, Rescue 117 had been providing emergency cover in the South East, as a lack of 24/7 cardiac facilities in the South East, combined with a lack of Air Corps air crafts available.

However, the Irish Aviation Authority says it’s no longer content with the arrangement that pilots must juggle between search-and-rescue operations and inter-hospital patient transfers while on rescue patrol.

It’s stated that inter-hospital transfers are supposed to be provided for by the Air Corps or other commercial providers hired by the National Ambulance Service and HSE, not the Coast Guard.

It’s now been revealed that overnight inter-hospital transfers will be carried out by the Air Corps for a short-term period.

It has not been specified how the issue is to be dealt with long-term.

The move has caused widespread concern and anger in Waterford.

Independent Councillor, Mary Roche says there’s no time left for talking: “While Rescue 117 was never an ideal solution for cardiac patients out of hours, at least it gave people some kind of sense of there being a safety net that if push came to shove they would be transferred by helicopter to Cork, and as a result could get there in time.

“Now with that being taken away, it really leaves no safety net. I am calling on The Minister and The Taoiseach to put the second cath lab in place now as a matter of urgency.

“There are 175,000 people who are outside of the maximum 90 minute transfer time here in the South East and it’s just simply not acceptable anymore. The time for talk is over, the time for action is here”.

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