Marie Keating Foundation reacts to IHCA reports of increased cancer deaths over the next decade as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Marie Keating Foundation reacts to IHCA reports of increased cancer deaths over the next decade as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

“It is in imperative that all that can be done is done to ensure that cancer patients do not suffer unnecessarily and that anyone who has concerns or is referred can access diagnostics and treatment within the recommended timeframes”

Warnings in the media today from the IHCA that deaths from cancer could increase for the next decade due to the massive disruption to diagnosis and treatment cause by COVID-19, are deeply worrying.

Speaking on behalf of the IHCA, Professor Seamus O’Reilly said “our health system will struggle to cope with the backlog of patients without hiring additional oncologists and other medical specialists”.

Reacting to this, Marie Keating Foundation CEO, Liz Yeates said “the comments from Professor Seamus O’Reilly and the IHCA are deeply worrying. The disruption and delays to cancer care as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health system will mean more missed cancers and more people diagnosed later stage and this will mean more difficult treatment pathways and more limited options for patients. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to fully mitigate these impacts but there is plenty that can, and needs to be done, to ensure our health system is robustly resourced to be able to deal with this influx and ensure that the negative impact on patient diagnosis, care and treatment is minimised as much as possible.”

Professor O’Reilly pointed to delays in accessing diagnostic services “cancer care is time dependent. For example, colonoscopies are the gold standard of diagnosis for bowel cancer. Pre-pandemic urgent referrals were seen within one month. Now as a result of disruptions to service, 60% of referrals are waiting longer than three months”.

These figures were particularly alarming “of particular concern are the figures quoted in relation to how quickly urgent referrals for colonoscopies are being seen, falling from within one month to the majority now taking more than 3 months to be seen. This is unacceptable and we support the IHCA’s call to ensure that the one in five Hospital Consultant posts currently vacant, are filled, as well as a focus on recruiting additional oncologist and other medical specialists to help the system cope.”

We would also propose that a clear plan is put in place and communicated, in relation to cancer services specifically to address the impact that the pandemic will have on cancer mortality and more complex cases over the next decade. It is in imperative that all that can be done is done to ensure that cancer patients do not suffer unnecessarily and that anyone who has concerns or is referred can access diagnostics and treatment within the recommended timeframes. What the Government and the Health Minister does now, can save lives in the future.” Liz Yeates, CEO, Marie Keating Foundation