Dáil debates

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Hospital Waiting Lists: Motion [Private Members]


8:25 pm

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this very important issue. We all know of people in chronic pain who have been waiting four years for pain management clinic appointments. Many Deputies have spoken about these kinds of issues tonight but I will concentrate on something else and I am glad the Minister and the Ministers of State are here to listen. The Saolta group, which covers the west of Ireland, deals with cancer and cancer treatments. The probability of receiving a timely diagnosis of cancer and surviving the disease varies substantially across Europe. Due to majority inequity in access to cancer diagnostics and treatments, the chances of surviving cancer are reduced in the west of Ireland relative to the rest of Europe.

The Saolta cancer centre, based in the model 4 hospital, University Hospital Galway, delivers a programme of cancer care to an overall catchment area of approximately 1 million people across the Saolta group area of Connacht and Donegal, which includes others in the mid west and midlands. The Saolta group covers some of the most rural and deprived areas nationally, mainly associated with the western seaboard. Cancer is a leading cause of premature mortality for those living in the Saolta group area. According to National Cancer Registry Ireland, cancer patients from this region have the worst cancer outcomes in Ireland. In addition, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means the mortality rate is expected to increase.

Cancer services in the Saolta group have been working beyond full capacity, with no resilience, within the cancer programme to deliver a safe, staffed and sustainable service prior to Covid-19. While we produced the national cancer control programme in 2006, which designated eight cancer centres, the cancer programme for the west of Ireland has not received any infrastructure supports for the past 12 years and has not been able to develop into a sustainable, staffed and secure programme. It is important we develop a smart, integrated programme, which will allow timely access to diagnostics, therapeutics and follow-up in a sustainable manner throughout the region. The people of the west deserve this. The national development plan gives the Minister and the Ministers of State an opportunity to positively discriminate in favour of this region.

We cannot allow this situation to continue ad infinitumand we cannot continue to pay lip service to it. We have had enough of it. We need to put the infrastructure in place. We have enough plans, reviews, etc. It is important the Ministers and the Ministers of State bring this message back to central government. It is time to make sure the Saolta group is properly funded and given the proper infrastructure to make sure we can deal with cancer inequality like everyone else.


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