"Three year breast cancer screening backlog will cost women their lives" - Tóibín
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has claimed that the three year Breast Check backlog will cost women their lives. Speaking today, Deputy Tóibín said:
"A decision was made in March to pause cancer screening in this country. The government did not disclose this decision to the opposition benches, and instead we learned about the decision through journalists one month later on foot of freedom of information requests. The Health Minister at the time, Simon Harris, admitted to me in the Dáil that he was aware of the decision, and that he supported the decision "one hundred and ten percent". None of us could have imagined that the backlog for breast cancer screening would exceed three years".
Deputy Tóibín continued; "A month ago the HSE published their winter plan, and when I read it the first thing I noticed were the downfalls in cancer services. The document proposed to spend €2.3 million on "cancer restart" in 2021, but does not allocate any funds for the remainder of 2020. Yesterday Breast Check restarted their screening program, having been closed for some seven months. Today we learned that the backlog will take three years to clear. How many women will die as a result of these facts?"
"What is even more worrying is that backlogs have not just been experienced in screening, but, the HSE note, were also "experienced in the symptomatic breast and prostate services". The HSE Winter Plan says that there will be additional resourcing for cancer services and that this will enable a "15% increase in current capacity". The HSE project that this will achieve a maximum capacity level in 2021 which is 95% of the pre-covid capacity levels", added Tóibín.
"On the night that the plan was published, I outlined my concerns on RTE news. If we have a backlog in the system then we need an increase in capacity to deal with that backlog. If the system is only operating at 95% of what it was before the pandemic then of course it is going to take years to clear the backlog. Of course we have to ask the question - how many women will die because they haven't been screened? Even more worrying is the HSE's admission that we have a backlog for patients who are symptomatic also. I have today written to the Minister for Health and asked him to outline the extent of that backlog", concluded Deputy Tóibín.