Treating cancer patients in A&E ‘disgrace’

Dr Greg Kelly.

A patient with metastatic cancer told a doctor he would rather “drown myself in the river” than return for treatment to a cancer centre of excellence where he would face emergency department delays and the likelihood of days on a trolley.

Dr Greg Kelly, a GP from Roscommon, said his patient had developed complications as a result of chemotherapy and had to be referred back to University Hospital Galway (UHG) for intravenous treatment.

“But he had such a bad experience of the hospital when he was referred back on a previous occasion that he said, ‘I would prefer to drown myself in the river than go back’,” said Dr Kelly.

His patient was so distraught that Dr Kelly made contact instead with Roscommon General Hospital and asked if it would accommodate him.

“It was not a case I would normally send to Roscommon but I said I’d take full responsibility for any breach of protocol,” said Dr Kelly, adding that he had been motivated to act for “humanitarian reasons”.

Dr Kelly said that at UHG, instead of being treated expeditiously as someone with advanced cancer, the man had to be admitted through the emergency department, facing substantial delays.

He said this was “a serious flaw” in the handling of cancer cases and that the man had opted instead “for a lesser centre of excellence where, at least, he could get a bed”.

“It’s completely disgraceful — you wouldn’t treat an animal like that,” he said.

Dr Kelly was speaking to a motion at the Irish Medical Organisation’s agm in Sligo calling on the HSE, the health minister, and the public expenditure and reform minister to acknowledge it is not appropriate to treat the sickest patients on trolleys, chairs, or in the corridors of emergency departments. The motion was carried.

A motion calling on the Department of Health to ensure that all medical devices be approved by the Health Products Regulatory Authority was also carried.

Mayo-based GP Dr Ken Egan said: “We have all sorts of quacks pulling up in Claremorris setting up machines to measure this and that. There is no supervision and we don’t know what is going on.”

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who was due to attend the conference, pulled out due to involvement in talks to form a government.

Meanwhile, Dr Peadar Gilligan, chair of the IMO consultant committee, confirmed it has commenced legal proceedings in the High Court to secure the release of salary increases due in 2009 under the terms of the 2008 consultant contract which it alleges the HSE has unlawfully withheld.


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