Figures released to Peadar Tóibin have shown a steep decline in the number of cancer surgeries in 2021 as the Covid lockdown continued.
The Aontú leader described the revelation as “really troubling”, and said that the number of diagnoses which were missed or delayed as a result of the closure of our screening services needed to be investigated.
Mr Tóibín said the information was only made available after he submitted questions to the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on the subject – through a mechanism known as parliamentary questions which TDs can use to elicit written responses from the government.
That showed that the number of people undergoing surgical oncology was 20% lower than pre-pandemic levels.
The number of patients receiving radiation treatment for cancer between January and November 2021 was also down 15% on activity from 2019 – and the number of people receiving chemotherapy was 5% lower.
Deputy Tóibín said: “It is really troubling to see that the number of patients undergoing surgical oncology was down by a massive 20% last year.
The Aontú leaser was diagnosed with cancer during the lockdown. “Like many others, I delayed going to the doctor because of the restrictions. I’m now recovered while still going for regular check-ups, but I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said.
Paul Gordon said of the Irish Cancer Society told the Irish Examiner:
“We know that up to 14% less cancer cases were diagnosed in 2020, so it is absolutely essential that our health services are properly resourced to deal with extra demand from those not diagnosed in 2020 and 2021 as we move out of the emergency phase of the pandemic.”
“The Irish Cancer Society has for some time been highlighting the need to bolster cancer services in preparation for a ‘catch-up’ trend for patients whose diagnosis may be delayed due to the pandemic, and these figures highlight the challenges this is posing for cancer treatment in particular.”
Mr Tóibín said his party has repeatedly called for the Government to open up the health service during the Covid crisis, arguing that the extent of the shutdown would have detrimental effects on public wellbeing in regard to many other conditions.