PANDEMIC-related disruptions to cancer diagnoses and treatments are having a profound impact on patients and their families, according to Independent TD Michael Collins.
Deputy Collins said constituents have told him they are terrified of having their treatments delayed and that the situation, at present, is affecting their mental health.
‘Cancer doesn’t stop being a life-changing and life-threatening disease in the middle of a global health pandemic,’ he said, ‘yet the data tells us that less cancers are being diagnosed.’
He claimed early diagnosis is ‘crucial to survival outcomes’ and that there is, at present, ‘a system-wide failure’ occurring because the services pre-Covid were already stretched.
Research by the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) shows that as many as one in eight cancers that were predicted to be diagnosed in 2020 were not. Meanwhile, data from the HSE illustrates that waiting times for treatments and referrals have increased significantly during the past two years.
‘The seriousness of this,’ according to the TD, ‘is highlighted in one recent peer reviewed study, which finds that a four-week delay in cancer treatment increases the risk of patient death by about 10%.
‘Like many of the challenges facing our health and social care services, delays in cancer treatments are connected to years of inadequate investment, insufficient resources, subpar senior management accountability and staff shortages,’ he added.
‘The double whammy of insufficient resources and pressures on healthcare workers means that many clinicians are forced to make clinical judgements to determine whether treatments are provided or delayed and, in such situations, it is always the patient who suffers.’