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'We must not rob Peter to pay Paul': HSE to report back on late cancer diagnosis and outcomes

The Taoiseach said the lockdown did impact on the non-Covid illness.

Image: RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has asked the HSE to compile a report into the late diagnosis and treatment of cancer, coronary care and other areas, to assess the impact the lockdown had on non-Covid illness outcomes.

Labour’s Alan Kelly has repeatedly asked the Taoiseach for such a study to be carried out stating in the Dáil today that he had serious concerns that the number of non-Covid related deaths could exceed Covid-related mortality rates.

“Let there be no doubt that Covid-19 had a significant impact on non-Covid illness and disease. In my view, it resulted in delayed diagnoses across cancer and coronary care and in other areas. That happened because at the time of the lockdown many elective procedures and diagnostics were cancelled and significant backlogs built up,” acknowledged the Taoiseach. 

“I have a deep concern regarding the number of missed diagnoses and delayed treatments. Obviously, there are consequential issues relating to morbidity and mortality,” said the Labour leader. 

The Irish Cancer Society estimates that more than 450 cancers and 1,600 pre-cancers went undetected during the pause in screenings from late March to the end of July, Kelly told the Dáil.

“On top of that, I have been hearing some very worrying stories. I heard two such stories in the past week alone, involving people who believed they should have had treatments and diagnoses earlier and now have stage 4 cancer,” he said. 

Martin said he agreed with Kelly, stating that some people are now manifesting later stage conditions and delayed diagnosis.

“Some people have told me they did not wish to go hospital…. the lockdown had an impact on non-Covid care. There was a fear about going to hospital. We are dealing with a new virus and I am not apportioning blame,” he said.

“We must ensure we are not robbing Peter to pay Paul. We must deal with Covid, but we must also ensure we are dealing with the issues of coronary and cancer care, as well as many other illnesses.

“We need to see the figures in respect of the diagnosis and treatment of cancer last year as compared with this year,” said Kelly.

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The Taoiseach said he has asked the HSE to try to get specifics, but said “it will take a bit of work in terms of comparing a whole year’s diagnostic figures”.

He said the figures will have to be compiled hospital by hospital in terms of diagnosis.

Kelly said the figures must be made public and called for a public awareness campaign to be launched to encourage people to attend their appointments and not put off going to the hospital or doctor if needed. 

He said there shouldn’t be a scenario where non-Covid deaths may outnumber deaths from Covid.

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