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Cullinane - apartheid in the provision of cancer care services cannot be tolerated

5 March, 2005


Sinn Féin Councillor David Cullinane speaking in favour of motions 197,198,199 and 200 dealing with cancer care services in this state said "The government's centralised approach which forces many people in this state to travel over a hundred miles or more for Radiotherapy treatment is an absolute disgrace." Councillor Cullinane said:

The issue of cancer care is one of the few issues that unites political parties and people the length and breadth of this island. I am sure there is not an individual in this hall who has not been in some way affected by the scourge of cancer. The facts are that one in three people living on this Island will develop cancer, one in four will die. However while the issue of cancer itself transcends party politics it is vital that we as an opposition party point out the glaring inequalities and lack of cancer care services that prevails in this state. From cervical cancer care, to Radiotherapy to colon cancer screening, the inequalities and lack of services is a national scandal.

One in 25 Irish women will develop cervical cancer and approximately 60 women die of the disease each year. According to Dr Mary Condren, a Dublin based GP a number of women are at risk of developing cervical cancer due to the fact that they cannot afford a smear test. Over 28% of women have medical cards but disgracefully under the terms of the medical card scheme, they are not entitled to cervical cancer screening, so many may never have had a smear test. This is no way for a first world country, one of the so-called wealthiest in the world, to treat its female population. This scandal should end immediately and I call on the Irish Government to immediately introduce free cervical screening for all women aged 25 and over.

Another scandal is the issue of Radiotherapy services in this state. The government's centralised approach which forces many people in this state to travel over a hundred miles or more for Radiotherapy treatment is an absolute disgrace. The government favours super-regional cancer centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway and ignores the plight of people in the Southeast, North West and other regions who are forced to travel. International best practise on provision of cancer services demands that all three modalities of treatment, Chemotherapy, Surgery and Radiotherapy should all be provided on one site, under one roof. According to the National Cancer Care Alliance failure to do so results in 20% reduced outcome for cancer patients. This is in effect apartheid in the provision of cancer care services in this state and cannot be tolerated.

Sinn Fein demands immediate action from part-time Health Minister Mary Harney. We demand free cervical screening for all women over 25. We demand the immediate roll out of the National Breast Check programme and the extension of the programme to extend the age limit to include women up to the age of 70. We demand the introduction of a colon cancer screening programme given that colon cancer kills 1800 Irish people every year. We demand world class, regionalised cancer care services, including Radiotherapy which ensures that cancer care is provided on the basis of need and without discrimination in terms of ability to pay or geographical location. We demand that equality be at the core of delivering on major reform of cancer care services in this state and on this island. I ask delegates to vote in favour of motions 197 to 200.

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