Sinn Féin TD for Clare Violet-Anne Wynne has spoken out against the Government’s sustained lack of investment in our National Cancer Strategy, and criticised the lack of expenditure dedicated to deal with the backlog of screening due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Teachta Wynne said:
“I’ve been engaging with a Clare advocate from the Irish Cancer Society and was absolutely horrified at the extra costs involved in being diagnosed and receiving treatment for cancer in this country.
“Charges can come to €80 per day. Research compiled by the Irish Cancer Society suggests that cancer patients can sometimes experience financial losses of €1,500 per month. This injustice is long-documented and understood, yet still affects Irish people on the day to day.
“After this outreach meeting, I submitted parliamentary questions to Minister Donnelly seeking more information on this issue. I was informed that the Department is currently ‘examining the issue’, which is disingenuous as it was included in the Programme for Government that a cap would be placed on the upper limit of charges accrued per year.
“Minister Donnelly did not concede that using debt collection agencies was in any way inappropriate, which shows how out of touch this Government is.
“We know there is a significant number of people who are not medical card holders but haven’t got private health insurance either. This middle class, which in effect is the largest section of society, is subject to inpatient charges.
“Cancer patients already end up under financial pressure due to not being able to work for a period. To also be charged for accessing life-saving treatment is unacceptable.
“Worst of all, it was explained to me that these charges which are issued by the hospital in question initially, if not recovered within 47 days the recovery of the charge is passed onto a debt-collector.
“This is morally incomprehensible and is a practice that should not be carried out, least of all by the State.
“University Hospital Limerick have introduced free car parking places for cancer patients and their visitors – this needs to be rolled out nationally.
“Perhaps most concerning, is the distinct lack of funding for cancer services in this years budget.
“Emergent EU data suggests that as many as 1 million cases of cancer have been undiagnosed throughout the pandemic period. We know that routine screening and early detection is the most effective way to deal with cancer – for the patient, services, and exchequer.
“Instead of investing significantly in dealing with the backlog, in order to offset the damage that has been done due to restricted screening over the last 19 months, this Government has done what it always does and has refused to be proactive.
“The Irish Cancer Society were calling for a €42million budget allocation – €30 million for maintaining existing service levels and €12 in additionality to recover missed screening services etc.
“Sinn Féin fully-costed this request and have matched it in our alternative budget. When in Government we will also abolish in-patient’s charges and remove this unnecessary and insensitive cost to cancer patients.
“However, what the Government have provided for is absolute insult to injury. Rather than ringfencing certain allocation for developing the National Cancer Strategy, next years budget includes a €30million amount for developing the HSEs 5 national health strategy.
“This is an example of how the political will to reform our broken health system simply isn’t there. Tá sé in am don athrú.”