The health service needs to prepare for an “influx” of seriously ill cancer patients once the Covid-19 pandemic nears its end, an oncologist has warned.
Warning of "worrying times" ahead, Dr Greg Korpanty, of University Hospital Limerick, said he expects to see a large number of cancer patients presenting with more advanced disease and late diagnosis when the pandemic "nears a conclusion".
“We are yet to see the full impact of Covid-19 on Irish healthcare and now more than ever, we need to ensure that we’re equipped to manage existing patient needs and prepare for the emerging need,” he said.
While significant progress has been made in recent years regarding better awareness, quicker diagnosis and newer innovative treatments for cancer, Dr Korpanty warned that "Ireland is still not where it needs to be" when it comes to the options available to patients.
“The pandemic has very clearly compounded this further and added an additional level of urgency for future solutions as cancer screening is paused and more cancers go undiagnosed as people decline to visit their GPs or attend routine hospital appointments,” he said.
He was speaking as a new survey shows most people think the Government is not doing enough to improve cancer care, and that Covid-19 has led to delays in treatment and diagnosis of the disease.
A majority – 57 per cent – say they do not believe patients in Ireland are treated the same, regardless of whether they are public or private.
Almost half of those surveyed – 45 per cent – believe patients in Ireland do not get access to the latest treatments in cancer until after patients in other European countries.
Half of respondents felt not all cancers are treated equally, and that some types were given priority for research and funding.
The study, conducted by Ipsos/MRBI and funded by MSD Ireland, also shows 91 per cent believe the Covid-19 pandemic has caused delays in cancer treatment and diagnosis.
“Although a lot of progress has been made in recent years, Ireland is still significantly trailing behind its European counterparts when it comes to cancer care, treatment and diagnosis,” said Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients’ Association.
"It is unacceptable that an inequity exists whereby a patient in the UK, Belgium or Spain would receive better care than patients in Ireland, and as a society we need to look closely at these inequalities to better address them."