25 protest outside Dáil but 12,000 cancer patients signed petition to renew specialist’s contract

It was always going to be a small protest outside Leinster House yesterday because most of those at the centre of the campaign were too ill to be there.

25 protest outside Dáil but 12,000 cancer patients signed petition to renew specialist’s contract

About 25 people demonstrated outside Dáil Éireann, but more than 12,000 have already signed an online petition calling on St Vincents’ University Hospital in Dublin to renew a specialist’s contract.

Sarcoma patients and their families want an assurance that the standard of care for sarcoma patients will not decline with the departure of Dr Alexia Bertuzzi this week.

Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that affects 200 to 250 people in Ireland annually . It can be cured if caught early.

Among the protesters was Kelli Appezzato, who sent an open letter to Health Minister Simon Harris last week pleading for expert care for her critically ill husband, Gino.

Gino, 44, who is under the care of Dr Bertuzzi, is recovering from major surgery to remove a tumour just over four weeks ago.

“This was always going to be a small protest because the people we are doing this for are too ill to come out themselves,” said, Kelli.

“We are being told sarcoma care won’t be compromised, but nobody has stepped up and said, ‘we understand this is an issue; we know your fears and this is how we are going to help you’.”

Dr Bertuzzi had been contracted as a locum at the hospital for the past three years and over that time became the go-to consultant for patients with sarcoma.

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s Hospital said its multidisciplinary team had all the relevant specialities for the care of patients with sarcoma and other cancers.

One of the protesters was Pauline Kavanagh from Balbriggan, Co Dublin. Her daughter, Louise, 17, was diagnosed with sarcoma in her spine last September.

“Dr Bartuzzi is so positive and brings patients on. She really is a life-saving clinician,” said Pauline.

Also protesting was Crona Sheehan from Donnybrook, Dublin, who was diagnosed with sarcoma in 2005.

“Surgery is not an option for me anymore so I need a specialist oncologist like Dr Bertuzzi but we are caught up in a human resources issue, and it’s not fair,” she said.

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