Record waiting lists within our health service are resulting in delays in finding seven to 10 invasive cancers every day, local Independent Depputy Denis Naughten has informed An Taoiseach in the Dáil.
Deputy Naughten pointed to several reasons, including the impact of Covid, which have resulted in the record waiting lists across our health service.
He went on to say that “all of these delays are leading to cancer being diagnosed at a later stage of the disease, when treatment options are limited, and tragically the prognosis is poor”.
And sadly, Deputy Naughten has predicted that things could get much worse as there is a 54-month respiratory waiting list “as the country is about to face a potential avalanche of respiratory cases as a result of long Covid”.
According to research by the Oireachtas Library, which Denis Naughten commissioned, “an estimated 114,500 people, and rising, have ‘long Covid’ in Ireland and it is rapidly becoming a hidden iceberg of long-term chronic illness for our struggling health service”.
He has called on the Taoiseach “to urgently do things differently within our health service if we are to address these appalling waiting lists once and for all”.
While recognising that staff recruitment is a major issue, Denis Naughten also said: “We cannot just magically make staff appear and the Government should sponsor students in training today on the basis that they commit to working within our health service for a period after graduating.”
He also called for an “urgent review of the way our health system works now and see how we can speed it up”.
“For example, we could maximise the use of our existing health infrastructure by extending the operational hours, so we get more scans done on the same machine, including Saturdays and Sundays, as well as using the spare diagnostic capacity in our smaller hospitals,” Deputy Naughten stated.
Deputy Naughten acknowledged that the Government “will spend €40,000 every minute on our health service, but just throwing money at our waiting lists does not work within our health service; we need to see structural reform”.
“Take the rapid access haematuria clinic; the blood in urine clinic, at Roscommon University Hospital, where 10% of referred patients have been diagnosed with cancer. It treats 70 percent of patients in one visit and 100 percent of patients are seen within the 28-day target time for urgent cases. Yet this service has not been rolled out anywhere else.
“There are many cases of good practice in our health service, but these never get mainstreamed because it clashes with someone else’s agenda and that this has to stop.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when it is easier to spend money on treating patients in private hospitals than to support innovation in public hospitals, which can make a real difference in the long term to our waiting lists,” Deputy Naughten concluded.