Rename centres of excellence to allay fears, urge doctors

DOCTORS want cancer “centres of excellence” rebranded as “specialist centres” to allay patient fears that treatment anywhere other than the so-called centres of excellence may be substandard.

And in a boost to the Government’s National Cancer Strategy, doctors yesterday voted down a motion proposing the strategy be rejected because it failed to locate any such centre in the northwest, northeast or midlands.

In the most heated debate of the day, GP trainee Dr Ruairi Hanley questioned why, when an expert report published in 2000 recommended 13 centres of excellence to treat cancer, that number had now been reduced to eight.

Dr Hanley, who works in Co Louth, said the new strategy would leave his patients without local access to a centre.

However Dr Cormac MacNamara, a GP in Co Waterford, said someone close to him had died of cancer and during the time they were dealing with the illness, location was not his priority.

“If I could have travelled anywhere to get a better outcome, I would have,” he said.

He said he wanted a model of care that was outcome-driven, not location driven.

Dr Larry Fulham, a GP in Co Laois, said there had been “considerable disfunctionality” of cancer services in his area and he did not support the development of a nearby centre of excellence.

Prof John Higgins, consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital, said he opposed the motion because logic, and not emotion, should decide the location of essential services.

Professor Cillian Twomey, consultant geriatrician at Cork University Hospital (CUH) said the use of the term “centre of excellence” should be scrapped “because the implication of the using the term is that services provided in other areas are not excellent”.

Consultant neurologist Mr Hugh Bredin proposed that the term be replaced with “specialist centre”.

This was accepted. However the motion proposing the rejection of the National Cancer Strategy on grounds that it failed to locate centres in certain parts of the country was defeated.


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