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wealth divide

Public patients waiting 20 times as long for brain scans than private patients

“The grim reality of our healthcare system is that the difference between life and death can come down to your ability to pay for healthcare.”

IT TAKES 20 times as long for a patient in the public healthcare system to access a MRI brain scan than someone being treated privately, a new study has found.

This is one of a number of statistics in a new report from the Irish Cancer Society that highlights the stark contrast in the readiness of care available between the two systems.

The study is based on an extensive survey of GPs and found that 88.5% thought the ability to pay affected a patient’s access to referral services.

Speaking about the findings, head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society Donal Buggy said: “The grim reality of our healthcare system is that the difference between life and death can come down to your ability to pay for healthcare.”

What areas does this happen in? 

While delays were noted across the service, tests for gynaecological, neurological, urological and head and neck cancers were particularly problematic.

The difference in wait time for those attempting to access abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds in the public and private system was 70 days.

The survey – which took results from more than 200 GPs – found the longest wait a patient had to endure for an ultrasound was 480 days.

How big an issue is this?

At the moment around 46% of the Irish population have private health insurance and around 39% have a medical card.

This leaves around 15% who have access to public healthcare but no means to cover costs they may incur.

The survey also looked at some factors that could potentially speed up a public healthcare patient’s wait time.

If their GP had a good relationship with the specialist they wanted to see, the possibility of them being seen increased.

This was pointed to as problematic as the patients of newer doctors would suffer.

Read: Aspirin can give major survival boost to patients battling some cancers

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