Wednesday, 24 April 2002
Dáil Eireann Debate
38. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the claims made by the President of the Irish Heart Foundation (details supplied) that thousands of lives were being placed at risk by the failure to fund plans to combat heart disease and particularly the failure to appoint promised consultants; his views on these claims; the steps he intends to take to deal with these shortcomings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12538/02]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The report of the cardiovascular health strategy group, Building Healthier Hearts, launched by the Taoiseach in July 1999, sets out an excellent blue print for tackling heart disease in Ireland in the long-term.
The cardiovascular health strategy addresses the common aspects of prevention of all cardiovascular diseases as well as the detection, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with coronary heart disease. The overall aims identified by the strategy are to reduce the risk factor profile in the general population; detect those at high risk; deal effectively with those who have clinical disease; and ensure the best survival and quality of life.
When the strategy was launched a number of implementation structures were established at national and regional level. These included the heart health task force, the Advisory Forum on Cardiovascular Health and regional committees at health authority-board level. Through the prioritisation of the implementation for the strategy, as advised by the Advisory Forum on Cardiovascular Health, and work of other groups, a co-ordinated, systematic and sustainable approach to its implementation has been adopted.
In this regard, during 2001, a working group was set up and chaired by Comhairle na nOspidéal with representatives from the Department of Health and Children and the Advisory Forum on Cardiovascular Health to plan the future consultant cardiologist requirements needed to  implement the recommendations of the cardiovascular health strategy.
This group submitted in May 2001 an interim report recommending 25 additional consultant cardiology posts for 2002. This interim report has taken account of the submissions from health boards and the recommendations contained in Building Healthier Hearts.
From funds available in 2002, boards have planned to appoint four additional consultant cardiologists, two in the South-Eastern Health Board, one in the North-Eastern Health Board and one, on a locum contract basis, in the Southern Health Board. In addition to these posts, approval has been given by my Department to the ERHA to appoint two paediatric cardiologists to Crumlin hospital.
I have met with representatives from the advisory forum, the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cardiac Society to discuss the Government's response to this interim report and I gave assurances of the Government's commitment to the cardiovascular health strategy, its acceptance in full of the interim report by Consultant Cardiology Manpower group, and that I and my officials are exploring how further new posts can be put in place this year.
I have also requested the group to provide me with its final report as soon as possible so that the full consultant cardiology requirements for the country in light of the cardiovascular health strategy can be considered and implemented over time.
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