Hundreds of patients undergoing cancer treatment had their clinic appointments cancelled at short-notice this year at University Hospital Galway, according to shameful new statistics.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) West has confirmed that it cancelled a total of 866 clinic appointments for cancer patients at UHG since January.
The HSE has admitted the scandal and has blamed a shortage of staff at the city hospital, which is one of the country’s so-called cancer ‘centres of excellence’.
Independent City Councillor Catherine Connolly described the figures as shocking at the latest regional health forum meeting.
Tony Canavan, CEO Saolta university healthcare group, confirmed to her a total of 95 oncology clinics were cancelled since January, and that directly impacted on 866 cancer patients.
The clinics are used to treat patients and to review the progress of their chemotherapy treatments, and so on. He said the clinics were cancelled due a lack of cancer staff but he gave a commitment to Cllr Connolly that the four vacant posts at the oncology department would be filled by this July.
Cllr Connolly tabled the question after she was approached by cancer patients who had their appointments cancelled.
“One woman was told on Friday that her appointment was not going ahead the following Tuesday. She was told there wasn’t enough staff for the clinics. They now have told us that there are 866 cancer patients whose clinics were cancelled.
“The sheer numbers are shocking, 866 in less than five month since January. They are clearly telling us that this is a staffing problem. I think the staff are wonderful, there aren’t enough of them. I don’t know how they keep going in a system that is falling apart around them,” she said.
Cllr Connolly said that patients were going through enough while undergoing treatment for cancer, and cancelling clinics at late notice was heaping unnecessary stress on them.
Mr Canavan said there are four staff vacancies in oncology but replacement posts have been recruited and will be in place by July 2015, when “full clinic capacity will be restored”. He said extra staff, including a registrar, an intern and part-time tutor, had already been recruited to “facilitate greater clinic capacity”.
For more on this story, see the Connacht Tribune.