Cancer Services Motion

September 27th, 2007 - Pat Breen

^ Private Members’ Business. ^

^^ Cancer Services: Motion (Resumed). ^^

The following motion was moved by Deputy James Reilly on Wednesday, 26 September 2007:

That Dáil Éireann, recognising that:

– there are approximately 22,000 new cases of cancer registered each year;

– over 7,000 people die from cancer each year;

– the delivery of efficient radiotherapy services plays a significant role in reducing deaths from cancer; and

noting:

– that the radiotherapy plan announced by the Minister for Health and Children in 2005 is not going to be delivered as promised in 2011, but is expected to be delayed until 2015;

– that a fundamental difference of opinion exists between the Minister for Health and Children and the chief executive of the Health Service Executive, HSE, on the ability of the HSE to deliver this plan; and

– the failure of the Minister for Health and Children to consult the HSE before announcing the €500 million radiotherapy plan to cancer sufferers and their families;

calls on the Government to urgently deliver treatment services for cancer patients as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all the words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“acknowledges the increased investment in cancer control, and supports the Minister for Health and Children in her commitment to ensuring equitable access to high quality cancer services for patients throughout the country; and in particular welcomes:

– the appointment by the Health Service Executive of an Interim National Cancer Control Director to lead and manage the establishment of the National Cancer Control Programme;

– the designation by the Executive of four Managed Cancer Control Networks and eight Cancer Centres in order to deliver the highest quality cancer services and best outcomes for patients;

– the progress that has been achieved to date on the implementation of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology as an integral part of the National Cancer Control Programme;

– the commitment of all necessary capital funding for the plan through public private partnership and Exchequer sources; and

– the commitment of the Government and the Health Service Executive to achieve a progressive expansion of radiotherapy capacity over a timeframe which meets patients’ needs.”

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this timely debate on a motion tabled by the new Fine Gael spokesperson on health, Deputy Reilly. I congratulate him on his initiative. As a medical doctor, his experience will be invaluable. Deputy Reilly has already taken up my invitation to visit Ennis tomorrow, to see at first hand the state of the health services there. He will be meeting consultants and hospital managers and will be told how a mammography unit located at Ennis General Hospital has been decommissioned.

The Minister announced yesterday that services at 13 hospitals throughout the country will be closed. I hope she is aware that the mammography service at Ennis has been closed since last October and women in County Clare have to travel to Galway and Limerick to be screened.

Geographical factors in west Clare are such that women must travel long distances to Limerick Regional Hospital to avail of the service. The distance between Kilbaha or Carrigaholt to Limerick Regional Hospital is 80 miles. There is a taxi service but it costs a great deal of money and there is no bus or other public transport service to take women to the hospital. We all know one cannot park one’s car at the hospital. If the HSE concentrates all its resources into centres of excellence, people will have to wait a long time to avail of services. Unfortunately, the Minister does not realise this.

I spoke to a woman in Kilbaha two weeks ago when this issue was raised. She asked why this development was to affect the people of west Clare and why they were to become more disadvantaged than anyone else. The mayors and Oireachtas Members of County Clare had a meeting with the Minister last week, during which she spoke of mammography services and her intentions regarding the roll-out of BreastCheck. She said last week she would be in a position within a week or so to announce when BreastCheck services would be available for County Clare. If she is present to sum up this afternoon, will she make this announcement?

The health services in County Clare are in chaos and there has been a continual downgrading thereof. The county has a growing population of more than 100,000. In the 1980s there were 122 beds in Ennis General Hospital and there are now 88. We have lost maternity services and we are now losing our cancer services. We were told last week the 24 accident and emergency beds in Ennis General Hospital will be a thing of the past when the model the Minister proposes comes into place.