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University Hospital Galway Alamy Stock Photo
cancer treatment

West of Ireland 'forgotten about' and left to suffer with higher cancer rates, says expert

The head of Saolta Hospital Group’s cancer network told The Journal that cancer care in Ireland is an ‘eircode lottery’ that allows some groups to suffer.

THE DIRECTOR OF University Hospital Galway’s cancer network has said that urgent resources are needed to address the fact that the West and North-West of the country suffers from the highest incidence and mortality rates from cancer.

Professor Michael Kerin will address an information meeting this evening hosted by Cancer Care West and the National Breast Cancer Research Institute.

The event is calling for the development of a proposed cancer centre on the UHG campus to address inequalities in accessing cancer treatment.

There are eight hospitals designated for cancer treatment by the National Cancer Control Programme, four in Dublin and one each in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.

Professor Kerin told The Journal that among Model 4 Hospitals, which provide emergency care and long-term care, Galway is at a major disadvantage for cancer treatment.

“One of the busiest Model 4 Hospitals in the country, and undoubtedly the one with the poorest infrastructure, is University Hospital Galway, which was built in the 1950s. A lot of the wards that were built in the 1950s are still in use,” he said

Overcrowding in the hospital has been highlighted in recent years and UHG was found to be the third most overcrowded hospital in the country in December of last year.

“The hospital is at 110% occupancy, more than 60% of the existing  accommodation is obsolete or not fit for purpose,” Professor Kerin said.

“The challenge is that the cancer population are in a queue or a competition with the emergency population to actually get access to care.”

University Hospital Limerick remains the country’s most overcrowded hospital, further diverting resources from cancer diagnostics and treatment in the West of Ireland.

“There’s a direct correlation between cancer outcomes and the deprivation index, for people living in poorly serviced areas there’s a much worse outcome.”

The National Cancer Registry of Ireland has found that people living in the most deprived areas had a higher risk of late-stage presentation, which leads to higher fatalities.

“If we compare common cancer outcomes in these western counties there’s a very significant discrepancy to the tune of about a 6% risk of mortality based on geographic location.”

“If there was a drug that improved your chances by 6%, you’d be asking why people in the West aren’t getting access to it,” he added.

“Some patients are diagnosed too late to receive the appropriate care they could have received if diagnosis had been earlier. In a modern, advanced country like Ireland, your outcome from cancer should not depend on where you live. Cancer care in Ireland is an eircode lottery.”

Professor Kerin has called on the government to provide more resources to the region to address the inequality of outcome in cancer treatment.

“The government’s aware of this and have put the Cancer Centre Development, which is based on developing the inpatient services in the major teaching hospitals, to the National Development Plan.”

“The objective of this evening’s meeting is to try and move that on and get better infrastructure and access for the West and North-West.”

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