Quinn recounts cancer experience at St Luke's Hospital

Fri, Jun 4, 2010, 01:00

THE HEALTH Service Executive (HSE) had become an “umanageable monster”, Labour’s Ruairi Quinn has told the Dáil.

“In the course of that transition from inefficient and various health boards to what became an integrated single unit, the credibility of our ability in efficiency terms to deliver an efficient health service, or the perception that – and frequently perception is more important than reality – is that it is a dysfunctional body,” Mr Quinn said.

He was speaking during the resumed debate on Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010.

The Bill provides for the dissolution of the cancer-treatment St Luke’s hospital board in Rathgar, Dublin.

Mr Quinn said he had to declare a personal interest.

“I am a graduate of cancer treatment and I can still remember, five years on, that extraordinary sense of total inner panic and fear that came right through me when my doctor said to me that one of the six samples tests which took place in Tallaght was cancerous,” he added.

“The word ‘cancer’ for my generation has the same resonance as TB for my parents’ generation.”

Mr Quinn said cancer was “not the TB of our generation”. It was a curable disease.

“I had my full body assessment after I went to the consultant when he told me that the first task was to find out if there was any cancer anywhere else in my system.

“I went through a long process. Going to St Luke’s was like going to a religious retreat. It was not going to the accident-and-emergency in St James’s.

“It was not like trying to find a parking space in the vicinity of St James’s and then negotiating something akin to a bazaar in Istanbul to get to the right place.”

Mr Quinn warned that “the best architecture in the world” would not transform St James’s Hospital into a place which would provide the sort of calm which already existed in St Luke’s hospital.

Mr Quinn said that there was a string of bed-and-breakfasts on the Merrion Road in Dublin, which catered for outpatients of St Vincent’s hospital.

“Where are they going to find that close to St James’s?” he asked.

He shared concerns expressed about the undertakings given in all good faith by Minister for Health Mary Harney and her Government colleagues.

The Minister, he added, had said her objective was to ensure that resources were utilised in the best interests of the health service.

“What does the health service need?” he asked. “More cash. What is the most valuable site in Dublin 6? St Luke’s. It was a no- brainer in terms of making a decision to sell the site.”

Introducing the Bill earlier, Ms Harney said its main purpose was to give further effect to the Government’s cancer-control strategy, and, in particular, the development of radiation oncology services under the national plan for radiation oncology.

It included the integration of St Luke’s hospital into the HSE’s national cancer control programme.

The Bill dissolved the board of St Luke’s Hospital and transferred the hospital and its staff to the HSE.

“Cancer screening is an intrinsic component of cancer control and integrating it into the cancer programme ensures that services and resources in the fight against cancer are co-ordinated,” Ms Harney added.