Harney: Urgent colonoscopies to be done within a month

ALL urgent colonoscopies will be performed within a month of referral by the end of this year, Health Minister, Mary Harney, said yesterday.

The HSE confirmed that about 820 patients are waiting more than three months for the bowel test used to help detect cancer.

Kilkenny woman, Susie Long, personified the consequences of delaying the test. She waited seven months for a colonoscopy and died in October 2007.

Ms Harney said she made colonoscopies a priority in the HSE’s service plan for this year and receives a monthly report on the issue.

The minister said there had been a 57% increase in the number of procedures taking place since October and GPs were now working on an agreed referrals system for colonoscopies.

“I am satisfied that, by the end of this year, urgent cases will be seen within a month,” Ms Harney said.

The new consultants’ contract would also ensure public patients like Ms Long were not put on a waiting list. “That cannot happen now,” she said.

Ms Harney also said Tallaght Hospital in Dublin had the most patients waiting. She had met with its medical director this week and he assured her that the issue would be resolved very quickly.

Asked about an assessment of Waterford Regional Hospital that found that the cancer specialist centre did not meet 36 out of 48 national standards, Ms Harney said none of the eight centres met the criteria when selected.

She said the country’s fragmented cancer treatment services was one of the reasons that it was behind the North in regard to outcomes. “No centre a year ago had what it required to be a specialist centre. We are putting the resources in and that is why Prof Keane is here.”

The minister said Mr Keane told her about a month ago that by the end of the year, Ireland’s breast cancer service would be one of the top three in the world and she found that very reassuring.


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