Cancer patients had appointments cancelled due to staff shortages

Forty patients who were due to attend an outpatient cancer clinic at University Hospital Galway on Tuesday had their appointments cancelled due to a shortage of staff.

Slamming the decision as “unacceptable”, city councillor and Regional Health Forum member Catherine Connolly said this represented a “new low in the public health service”. She said it was even more worrying that hospital management was not in a position to indicate when these patients would get a new appointment.

“I received urgent representations in relation to appointments for a cancer clinic due for Tuesday afternoon the 28th April being cancelled by phone call on the previous Friday afternoon. On making the necessary enquiries from hospital management it was confirmed that 40 patient appointments for the outpatient clinic scheduled for the 28th April had been cancelled and, even more worrying, management was not in a position to say when these patients would be given appointments again.”

She said that the hospital authorities confirmed that the reason for the cancellation of patients’ appointments was lack of staff, including both junior doctors and nurses, especially junior doctors.

“Moreover while HSE West management confirmed that they were actively recruiting staff they could not say when the situation would be rectified. This is a new low, where the most vulnerable patients are suffering due to a failure to employ the necessary staff which was a direct consequence of the government embargo on recruitment up to very recently and also quite clearly a policy of saving money and cutbacks.”

Cllr Connolly asked how can a hospital describe itself as a centre of excellence if outpatient cancer clinics are not only cancelled at short notice but there is no indication when they will resume? “Ironically these are patients who have been advised at all times to avoid stress and in particular stressful situations and yet the HSE West’s policy is actively contributing to patients’ stress levels.”

The former city mayor said she will raise this matter at the next Regional Health Forum meeting at the end of next month.

At the time of going to press this newspaper had not received a comment from the Saolta University Healthcare Group. It comprises University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital; Sligo Regional Hospital; Letterkenny General Hospital; Mayo General Hospital; Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe; and Roscommon Hospital.

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