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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 20 November, 2018

‘Susie had to wait seven months. She died. It would have been her 50th birthday next week’

A review of bowel screening cases at Wexford General Hospital has identified 12 missed cancers, including one probable avoidable death.

Conor Mac Liam pictured at a protest on the first anniversary of his wife Susie Long's death.
Conor Mac Liam pictured at a protest on the first anniversary of his wife Susie Long's death.

THE HUSBAND OF Susie Long has said the misdiagnosis of 12 cancers at Wexford General Hospital is “terrible news for the people involved and their families”.

Conor Mac Liam was speaking after RTÉ reported that a major patient review of bowel screening cases at the hospital has identified around 12 missed cancers, including one probable avoidable death.

Around 600 patients were recalled, due to issues with colonoscopies at the hospital in 2013 and 2014.

After Long’s death in October 2007, the HSE’s national BowelScreen programme was set up.

Mac Liam told Morning Ireland: “Bowel cancer is the second most deadly cancer in Ireland.

“The bowel screening programme is an excellent programme. It should be extended, but we need a robust programme – one which you can’t have things like this, where checks bring up cases which are already too far gone.

We can’t have a system which allows people to go so far with their cancer, particularly bowel cancer because timing is everything.

“Since Susie died there has been more than €3 billion taken out of the health system and we’re constantly worried about these situations arising again.”

When asked if he has confidence in the 14 other screening centres around the country, Mac Liam, who is running for election in Carlow-Kilkenny with the Anti-Austerity Alliance, said:

“It is good, of course, that there is a checking system, but my anxiety lies in the possibility that the checks aren’t quick or soon enough to actually save the lives of the people who are going through that.

There are 12 cases, apart from the person who is said to have died, who just won’t know and time, as I said, is of essence. Susie had to wait seven months. She died. It would have been her 50th birthday next Wednesday. She saw the partner of a friend of hers being seen within three days because she was on private health insurance.

“Public patients deserve a proper health system that caters to the needs of people. It can’t go on like this, where every so often we have chaos breaking out and people’s live being put at stake.”

1,000 deaths a year

On the same programme, Donal Buggy, head of services at the Irish Cancer Society, noted that about 1,000 people in Ireland die from bowel cancer every year.

He said the disease is “very, very treatable” if detected early, noting that more than nine out of ten people with stage one bowel cancer are alive five years after diagnosis once it is treated early.

However, for people found to have stage four bowel cancer, it’s the reverse – with as few as one in ten people still alive after five years.

Speaking about the review, he said: “12 lives have been changed for ever and, as we know, there has been one death.”

Buggy said the society’s biggest concern is the waiting time for colonoscopies. At present about 4,000 people are waiting more than three months for the procedure.

He said the 2015 target that 100% of public patients be seen within a 13-week period has been revised downwards to 70% by the HSE this year.

Buggy added that Wexford General Hospital is one of the centres consistently below target in this regard since 2014.

More information about bowel cancer can be found here

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Órla Ryan

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