Cancer centres ‘to provide multiple tests in one day at one place’

THE country’s eight new cancer centres will provide patients with multiple examinations in one day, cutting out the current practice of several return visits to hospital.

That’s according to Professor Tom Keane, interim director of the National Cancer Control Programme, who said he was hoping to schedule multiple appointments on one day and after surgery encourage follow-up examinations of patients by their local GPs.

He told a HSE (South) meeting yesterday that he was discussing bringing in a training programme for GPs, so they can become more actively involved in the treatment of cancer patients.

“I’m shocked at the huge investment in in-patient care, compared to community care. I want to bring GPs and nurses into a more coordinated cancer control and treatment programme,” said the professor.

“The time for debating the centres of excellence programme is over, and it is now time to implement it,” he added.

The cancer centres are to be created at Beaumont, The Mater, St James’s, St Vincent’s, Cork University Hospital, Waterford Regional, University College Hospital Galway and Limerick Regional.

There has been some criticism of the plan, especially as some patients may have to travel long distances for treatment.

However, Professor Keane said it had been proved in other countries the more patients were centralised in specialist centres, the better their survival rates.

He said his vision was that all cancer care, surgery and decision making should take place in designated cancer centres.

He also said he would ensure that each of the eight hospitals would have a dedicated transportation plan for patients.

Ireland has had poor cancer rates in terms of risk and mortality. Prof Keane said in some cases life expectancy after contracting cancer was 10% less than in other European countries.

“There’s only one cancer where Ireland’s doing well, and that is in treating paediatric cancer. That’s because it’s centralised in one hospital,” he said.

He wants to remove the fragmented system of treatment by centralising it.

“I see my job as getting people together and working in teams, instead of the lot of duplication there is in hospitals,” he said.

He said his strategy was to have the eight centres of excellence dealing with up to 80% of all cancer surgery by the end of next year.

He tried to allay fears expressed by Cllr Michael Healy-Rea about what would happen when Kerry General Hospital lost its cancer surgical services in September.

“In 2007, surgery for breast cancer accounted for just 1% of all discharges from the hospital. These patients accounted for just 3% of all bed days, which is very small. 60% of all breast cancer discharges were associated with chemotherapy and we will be keeping that service there,” added the professor.


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