150,000 Fewer Cancer Screenings Due To Covid

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150,000 Fewer Cancer Screenings Due To Covid
Risk to cancer patients due to lack of services

Nearly 150,000 fewer people attended cancer screening in Ireland in the first half of this year due to the rolling back of normal health services in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has reported that screening services, including BowelScreen, BreastCheck and CervicalCheck, have all seen a steep drop off in the number of people attending.

Professor John Crown, Consultant Oncologist at St Vincent’s Hospital says that the Irish health service is “already creaking at the seams and is at risk of being in real trouble”.

The IHCA has launched a campaign called Care Can’t Wait in an effort to highlight issues in the health system brought about by the focus on Covid-19.  “There is a lot of apprehension as to what it will be like to be a patient or a healthcare worker in the hospital system in Ireland over the next 6 months,” Professor Crown said.

The IHCA highlights the lack of consultants and capacity in Ireland’s oncology services. Patients are waiting many months to see a consultant oncologist. A month is a long time for a cancer patient. Waiting lists for oncology services are already lengthening due to the backlog resulting from limited services being provided earlier in the year.

“There are specific problems in Ireland which are greater in magnitude than in other countries, which revolve around the core area which affects the health system in general which is the issue of capacity. It’s well known systemically that we have tremendous waiting list problems in Ireland. I saw a lady recently who had a pain problem and getting an appointment to see a pain specialist has a waiting time of three and a half years, and this is considered remotely normal,” Professor Crown said.

Professor Crown is a longtime and very vocal campaigner for better health services in Ireland.

The IHCA has requested that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly immediately get working on filling the almost 500 vacant hospital consultant posts in Ireland.