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O Caolain - Cancer Treatment Services need to be addressed urgently

27 January, 2004

Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has today criticised the appallingly poor provision of cancer treatment services in Ireland. Speaking at a Cancer Care Alliance Press Conference in response to the report of the Expert Group on Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland, Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The government should hang their heads in shame" over the failure to provide adequate cancer treatment services across the island of Ireland.

Deputy O Caoláin said:

"It is a cause for successive governments to hang their heads in shame but none more so than the present Government which has had nearly seven years of unprecedented prosperity to put it right and has failed to do so. All we have to show for their efforts so far is yet another report.

"A quarter of all deaths are caused by cancer and 50% to 60% of cancer patients require radiation therapy yet the service here falls down in both quantity and quality. There is what the Report calls "a profound deficit". We have the lowest number of consultant radiation oncologists in Western Europe. Availability and use of radiation therapy is significantly lower than EU and North American averages.

"We have seen the welcome extension of the Breast-check initiative for women but if radiation oncology services are not put in place, much of that work will be in vain because the treatments will not be available for those diagnosed with breast cancer.

"We need equality of access to these vital services both in economic terms and in geographic terms. Three centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway are not enough and not acceptable. Very ill patients from the North West, from South Ulster, - which I represent - and from the South East will have to travel long distances. Huge swathes of the country will be unserviced. That must be put right.

"The report speaks of special transport solutions and hotel/hostel accommodation for those who must travel. We have seen no such proposals from Government. Meanwhile we have totally inadequate public transport and ambulance services.

"We need an all-Ireland approach, which the Hollywood Report does not adopt. All the resources on the island of Ireland need to be taken into account and cross-border solutions included in plans for expansion of services. It is time to put the dreadful health services associated with the 1980s behind us and provide adequate and efficient treatment services for all those in dire need of it."ENDS

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