Family attacks Harney’s legacy

THE family of a woman whose death following a late cancer diagnosis touched the nation has accused retiring Health Minister Mary Harney of leaving a legacy of “broken promises”.

Susie Long died from bowel cancer in 2007 after waiting seven months for a diagnostic test when she became ill in 2005, and her husband and children said yesterday they feel “utterly betrayed” by Mary Harney’s “broken promises”.

Conor MacLiam and his daughter Áine, 22, and son Fergus, 17, said a planned endoscopy unit for St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny is no closer to delivery, while the people of the south-east remain without a hospice — three years and three months after Susie’s death.

“She is walking out of her job having caused immense suffering for patients dependent on public health care,” the MacLiams said yesterday, after hearing of Ms Harney’s cabinet resignation.

Conor MacLiam is standing in the forthcoming election in a bid to highlight public health access issues.

The minister announced €300,000 in capital spending for an endoscopy unit at St Luke’s in January of 2007, as Susie Long and son Fergus watched from the Dáil public gallery.

“Susie’s delay in diagnosis happened because St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny had missed out on an endoscopy unit in the last recession and a long waiting list had developed as they operated out of a spare room with six trolleys,” her family said yesterday.

“In May of 2007 they presented Susie with planning briefs for the new unit at a ceremony in the hospital.

“Susie died in October that year, believing that this unit would be built, that others would benefit from it and perhaps lives would be saved. It still hasn’t been built.”

The HSE South has still not included the Kilkenny endoscopy unit in their capital budget, according to Mr MacLiam, while there is no funding either for a hospice in the south-east.

“Susie had to go to Dublin to die with dignity in a hospice. Still there is no hospice in Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford or Tipperary — the whole south-east of the country.”

Susie’s friends in the Susie Long Hospice Fund have raised €500,000 as part of a voluntary contribution towards a hospice in Kilkenny, while a unit has also been promised for Waterford.

“Neither one is started. Still people die behind curtains in overcrowded hospitals,” said Mr MacLiam.

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