Concern over reports of cancer surgery delays

The Irish Cancer Society has called for an immediate investigation into reports of surgical delays in some of Ireland’s designated cancer centres.

It issued a statement yesterday highlighting concerns about claims cancer surgeries are being cancelled due to staff shortages.

The national cancer charity has written to the director of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr Jerome Coffey, urging him to investigate the reported surgical delays quickly.

“Cancer patients experiencing delays to treatment undergo significant additional stress and upset, and this may impact their recovery,” the statement read.

“The Irish Cancer Society’s primary goal is that the world-class quality and safety standards we have come to expect of our cancer services are being maintained and that patients are completely confident with their care plan.”

The society said it was “essential” that the delayed publication of the National Cancer Strategy was expedited as a matter of urgency.

President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, Dr Tom Ryan, claimed cancer patients were having surgery cancelled due to overcrowding, and a lack of beds and doctors.

Dr Ryan further claimed surgical appointments for cancer patients were being cancelled in “significant numbers”.

While inroads had been made in reducing the number of delayed discharges — patients who cannot leave the hospital because other necessary care is not available — there were still not enough beds.

Dr Ryan, who also spoke on RTÉ radio yesterday, said there were 400 unfilled consultant posts in the country and 20% of those over the age of 55 would be retiring in the next five or six years. “So we need to recruit 800 to 900 consultants over the next five years,” he said.

He pointed out that consultants in public employment were resigning because the work environment had become unpleasant and intolerable.

“Jobs become unattractive because the medical community is a big network and the prospective candidates come to understand that particular jobs are under-funded and under-resourced so there are no applicants for the jobs,” he said.

Dr Ryan, an anaesthetist in St James’s Hospital in Dublin, pointed out that with 16% of the 2,500 consultant posts currently vacant, said colleagues were just overwhelmed by the number of patients.

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