€1m pathology unit lying empty
Calls have been made for the re-opening of the 'moth-balled' Pathology Department at Wexford General Hospital following complaints about cramped and inadequate conditions in the mortuary at University Hospital Waterford where dead bodies have been allegedly left decomposing on trolleys with body fluids leaking onto the floor.
Pathology facilities for the south-east are centralised in Waterford and any deceased person requiring a post-mortem examination is taken to Waterford Hospital where all pathology procedures have been carried out since the early 2000's.
But County Wexford post mortems were previously carried out in Wexford General Hospital with consultant pathologists travelling here from Waterford for the procedures.
Former Minister for Health Brendan Howlin provided funding of €1 million to build a state-of-the-art pathology unit at Wexford General Hospital in the mid 1990's and the facility operated for about six or seven years but became obsolete after the service was transferred to Waterford, despite a campaign of objection locally.
Labour Party election candidate Joe Ryan said that people in Wexford are rightly concerned about the news that loved ones who passed away were not treated with the dignity they deserved.
He has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to re-open the pathology unit in Wexford. 'The unit is still here in Wexford General Hospital and it should be used. I find it difficult to understand that pathologists would prefer to work in a substandard working environment with poor facilities in Waterford when there are better facilities in Wexford'.
Wexford undertaker Paddy Mulligan agreed that there is a 'state of the art' pathology unit at Wexford Hospital but said while it was convenient for local undertakers when it was operating, he can understand why the service was centralised in Waterford.
'To my knowledge, the pathology unit in Wexford is never used now. It was handy for us. It's a pity that it's lying idle. But the problem is that you might have a case here today and none tomorrow and a pathologist has to come from Wexford whenever there is one, a two-hour return journey each time. You are not going to have a pathologist here in Wexford full time. You can see the point in it being centralised.'
Mr. Mulligan said he has not witnessed the conditions complained about in the Waterford mortuary as undertakers hand over a deceased to the mortician who then takes care of the remains but the premises clearly needs upgrading, in his view.
'The building has been there a long time and with the volume of work that is done there, it could certainly do with a new premises or a major upgrade. The best thing would be to build a new mortuary', he said.
Mr. Ryan said he understands that the State Pathologist is happy to work in the Wexford facility.
'If the Wexford General Hospital pathology facility is capable of hosting work that can be subjected to legal scrutiny in the courts, why is it that the HSE doesn't use these facilities for general pathology', he asked.
'This matter can be quickly and humanely resolved without spending more money if the HSE makes efficient use of the resources it already has. The Health Minister should intervene and re-open the pathology unit at Wexford General Hospital so as to resolve this issue'.