Cancer service removed from local hospitals

Women throughout County Roscommon face travelling to Galway for treatment of symptomatic breast disease following Wednesday’s termination of such cancer treatment at Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals by the Health Services Executive (HSE).    Following the announcement of the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme, a spokesperson for Professor Brendan Drumm said that the HSE has formally requested that Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals ‘no longer provide multi-disciplinary symptomatic breast services and surgical treatment with immediate effect.’    The development has been sharply criticised by opposition politicians, with Deputy Denis Naughten describing it as ‘two-faced’ and claiming that the Galway service will not be in place until 2015.    Local services will be centralised to University Hospital Galway which is one of eight specialist designated cancer care centres around the country. It has however emerged that while that 11 women were treated for symptomatic breast disease at Portiuncula Hospital last year, there were no such instances in Roscommon County Hospital.    Local political reaction to the news has been swift, with Fine Gael’s Deputy Frank Feighan describing the timing of the HSE announcement as ‘cynical’. Mr. Feighan lamented the choice facing women in North Roscommon ‘in particular’, women who he said will now have to travel for two hours to Galway for treatment.     Deputy Naughten spoke on the issue at length in Dáil Éireann last night (Thursday) at around 9.30 pm.   Speaking to Roscommon People moments after his Dail contribution, Deputy Naughten said: ‘The only commitment that has been given in today’s announcement is that services will be withdrawn. There is no concrete commitment in relation to timetable or budget for these new services and it is two-faced of the government to promise something that might happen in eight years time and at the same time withdraw the very basic service that we already have.   ‘At the present time there is no patient transport system to Galway; in the last 18 months what was a very poor patient transport service has been removed altogether. The existing services must be kept up and running until the new service is ready and a new, improved patient transport service must be put in place before our local services are removed.’    Government TD Michael Finneran was less negative, however, and said that he did not want to ‘second-guess top medical opinion’.   ‘I am pleased that Galway is going to have a specialised service. I’m not going to second-guess top medical opinion in respect of Portiuncula Hospital and I think it’s important that people don’t have to travel to Dublin. I think that Galway is sufficiently near,’ said Deputy Finneran.   Deputy Finneran also pointed out that the treatment has not been available at Roscommon Hospital for some time now, and it is understood that treatment of this nature has not been carried out at the County Hospital since the retirement of Surgeon Michael Relihan in 2006.   A spokesperson for the HSE told Roscommon People that 11 women were treated for symptomatic breast disease at Portiuncula Hospital last year and none in Roscommon County Hospital.