Cancer patients should be fast-tracked

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Galway East TD Paul Connaughton has highlighted the need for upgraded facilities for cancer patients at University Hospital, Galway.

‘In recent weeks I have been contacted by a number of cancer patients who have outlined to me their concern about the systems and facilities in place at UHG for cancer patients. All of the people that I have spoken to have stressed that they are exceptionally pleased with both the medical treatment on offer and the staff they encounter on their visits to the hospital in general and the oncology day clinics and wards in particular.

‘However, there are issues around facilities at the hospital that make visits unnecessarily stressful for patients and their families. These include the long waits oncology patients with infections have to endure in A&E when their course of treatment can only be determined by the oncology team; the fact that many oncology patients have portacaths inserted to make taking blood easier, yet the phlebotomists cannot take blood via a portacath because of the lack of capacity in the phlebotomy room.

‘All of the people that I have spoken to have highlighted the dangers for cancer patients, whose immune systems are compromised by the effects of chemotherapy, having to wait for hours in A&E because of an infection or suspected infection. This places huge stress on both patients and staff in A&E who work tirelessly to ensure that immune suppressed cancer patients are accommodated in the most suitable and secluded areas of A&E. It has been suggested to me by patients that a dedicated emergency room to serve oncology patients is required for the hundreds of patients who attend this cancer centre of excellence.

‘I have taken this issue up with Minister Varadkar and also with the Chairs of the Emergency Department Taskforce as I believe that a large percentage of the throughput at the A&E in Galway relates to cancer patients, as the hospital is a centre of excellence for a huge portion of the country.

‘Another problem is the lack of statistics available as to the number of cancer patients that are seen and discharged from the A&E in Galway and this is another aspect that I have highlighted both with the Minister and the Emergency Department Taskforce. Were such figures available, I believe that they would demonstrate the exact scale of the problem and help in formulating a solution which would benefit cancer patients, staff in the A&E and overcrowding problems in the hospital.’