Kilkenny leads the way on A&E facilities for cancer patients


Galway East TD Paul Connaughton visited the newly opened St. Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny Tuesday to see at first-hand how cancer patients visiting the A&E are treated and is hopeful that similar systems can be put in place for patients at UHG.

‘In recent months I have been contacted by cancer patients and their families from county Galway who are concerned that cancer patients with infections or suspected infections, have to enter UHG via the A&E and in many cases have to spend hours, including overnight, on trolleys, among very sick people at a time when their immune systems are at their lowest because of chemotherapy.

‘Other hospitals around the country have systems in place so that a cancer patient whose  immune system is suppressed and who presents at A&E with an infection, suspected infection, a problem with a portacath or adverse reaction to drugs, goes directly to an oncology area or ward  and does not  have  to spent hours in the A&E.

‘St. Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny is a new hospital which streams patients and one where oncology patients don’t have to spend endless hours in A&E. I visited the hospital on Tuesday and was given an extensive tour of the hospital by Anne Slattery, General Manager and Dr. Garry Courtney, Consultant Physician. I have to say that I was extremely impressed by what I witnessed in Kilkenny and not all of that relates to the new infrastructure at the hospital.

‘Hospital management in Kilkenny have adopted a three-faceted approach to dealing with patients coming into the hospital. The first and most important facet is the hospital’s communication and liaison with GPs in the region. Both the hospitals and local GPs appear to be clear on exactly what information the hospital needs on patients being referred by GPs and the streaming that will follow once they enter the hospital.

‘The second facet is the hospital staff and administrative systems. I found that in St. Luke’s the focus is on the patient experience and the patient’s clinical needs and the hospital systems are tailored to fit the patients’ needs. Thus, oncology patients are segregated and not part of the general A&E population. The third element of the policy relates to the hospital infrastructure. The new hospital building at St. Luke’s is an extremely impressive piece of health infrastructure and a fitting environment for the delivery of 21st century health-care.

‘After spending two and a half hours in St. Luke’s, I must say that I was super impressed by the efficiency of the new hospital. Administrative policy and systems are key to the smooth running of the hospital and to achieve that, staff at every level within the hospital have to be in agreement and willing to buy into the patient-centred system.

I have been in contact with Minister Varadkar in relation to the need for a new A&E for UHG and believe that the systems in place in Kilkenny should be incorporated into any new facility in Galway. I have also raised the issue of cancer patients having to access UHG via the A&E with the Emergency Department Taskforce and will continue to raise this issue.

‘Tuesday’s visit to Kilkenny really brought it home to me that cancer patients in the west of Ireland who attend UHG as their cancer centre of excellence, need to be kept away from the main A&E area, where staff are already under incredible pressure. Following the visit I intend to redouble my efforts on this front and will be liaising in coming days with the cancer patients who have contacted me about this issue.’