Sarcoma patients protest outside HSE headquarters

Group calls on St Vincent’s to continue employing specialist in sarcoma Alexia Bertuzzi

Sarcoma patients are protesting outside the headquarters of the HSE in support of the continued employment of a specialist whose contract expires today.

Over 13,000 people have signed an online petition calling on St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin to continue employing its only sarcoma specialist.

The lives of many patients referred to Dr Alexia Bertuzzi from all over Ireland have been saved through her expertise in this rare form of cancer, a group campaigning for her continued employment have said.

Sarcoma is a rare cancer that affects 200 to 250 people in Ireland annually. There are 50 different types, and it is curable if caught early. The group says the best hope for patients is a plan drawn up by a specialist in the disease.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said Dr Bertuzzi, who is from Italy, was employed on a locum contract to provide cover for another consultant oncologist who had taken on the role of chair of the Irish clinical oncology research group.

This consultant had now returned to his post in St Vincent’s and “the reason for employing the locum has now ceased”.

“I am assured by the HSE that care for patients undergoing treatment for sarcoma cancer at St Vincent’s Hospital will not be compromised in any way and their management will be provided by one of the hospital’s full-time oncologists.”

This is the second time the ad hoc group of sarcoma patients has picketed the HSE’s office at Dr Steeven’s Hospital this week.

Former Senator Prof John Crown, also an oncologist at St Vincent's, has strongly supported the renewal of Dr Bertuzzi's contract.