Leading oncologist warns of ‘enormous implications’ for time-dependent care for cancer patients

A leading oncologist, Professor Seamus O’Reilly, of Cork University Hospital and the Mercy University Hospital, has said that as a result of the pandemic, patients were wary about coming into hospital. He has warned that delays to cancer diagnosis and treatment caused by the Covid-19 crisis could increase cancer mortality rates for the next decade. He cites recent statistics from the National Cancer Institute,

Professor O’Reilly noted that even before the pandemic, cancer diagnosis was increasing at a rate of approximately 5 per cent a year, and he expects the number to worsen as the pandemic continues.

Professor O’Reilly pointed out that ‘cancer care is time-dependent.’ For example, he explained that colonoscopies are the gold standard of diagnosis for bowel cancers. Pre-pandemic, urgent referrals were seen within one month. Now, as a result of disruptions to service, 60 per cent of referrals are waiting longer than three months.

Furthermore, patients are waiting longer for diagnosis and treatment because, according to the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association, one in five hospital consultant posts are currently vacant.

Professor O’Reilly also commented on the holistic nature of cancer care. A cancer patient receives treatment from several different medical specialists, he said, not just an oncologist. Poor staffing in these areas has a knock-on effect leading to a longer treatment and recovery period and worse outcomes overall.

Last year, the HSE estimated that it will need to recruit an additional 73 consultant oncologists over the next seven to eight years to meet the demand on services.

Irish Hospital Consultant’s Association President, Professor Alan Irvine, said treating cancer required ‘speed and efficiency’.

If you suspect that there has been a delay in your cancer diagnosis, or of that of a loved one,it is important to get legal advice from specialist solicitors who understand the medical negligence claims.

We have over 50 years expert legal experience advising such patients.

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