The backlog in cancer screening and treatment services is "concerning" and demands an all party response and increased funding from the Government.
This is the view of Sinn Féin Galway West TD, Mairead Farrell. She was speaking following her party's call for an immediate review of the National Cancer Strategy to address capacity deficiencies and to lay out a timeline for catch-up on new and delayed cancer care with targets; higher levels of investment to meet targets set under the National Cancer Strategy; additional funding for capacity protection measures to deliver cancer care in a Covid-19 environment.
Dep Farrell said such measures are necessary "as healthcare services head into the most challenging winter season in the history of the State".
'Covid-19 has hit cancer patients hard. We are now dangerously behind in our cancer screening programme. Failure to address this will cost lives'
Figures show that less than 100,000 people were screened in the first half of this year, compared to 500,000 in 2019. The National Screening Service said it was "unable to screen people at the same numbers" as it did pre-Covid-19. There have been significant delays in cancer screening at CervicalCheck, BreastCheck, and BowelScreen with the phased resumption of services varying depending on the screening programme and capacity.
Dep Farrell also pointed out that the State has the third highest rate of cancer in the world with more than 43,000 cancers diagnosed on an annual basis.
"Early diagnosis and intervention saves lives," she said. "With missed screenings, delayed procedures and being in a high risk category, Covid-19 has hit cancer patients hard. We are now dangerously behind in our cancer screening programme. Failure to address this will cost lives."