Hundreds of cancer patients from Waterford and across the South East, who would normally have their radiotherapy treatment at the Whitfield Hospital in Butlerstown, will no longer be accepted at the private facility from May 1st.

The ban, taken by management ‘with reluctance and as a last resort’, will only apply to new cases. Patients in the middle of a course of treatment will be facilitated until its conclusion.

Almost 800 cancer sufferers per year receive radiotherapy at Whitfield of which about 80 per cent are HSE patients and it is these who will now have to face the long and tiring trek to Dublin or Cork. The ban, which applies to standard radiotherapy and to the more advanced IMRT treatment, will not affect people holding private insurance with companies such as the VHI.

The Munster Express understands from its own sources that the contract between UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre and the HSE actually ran out on December 31st. Efforts to negotiate a new deal were unsuccessful and, according to our sources, a letter was sent to HSE senior management in Cork (Waterford is now part of the South area) and in Dublin informing them of the May 1st cut off point.

When contacted by The Munster Express, a spokesperson from UPMC Whitfield said he would prefer to comment as little as possible given the seriousness of the situation. However, the spokesperson did confirm that new HSE public patients could not be facilitated from May 1st onwards. “We took our decision with reluctance but we were left with no choice because it would be reckless for us to continue to trade without being paid. We have not received any communication from the HSE since we sent out our letter informing them of the cut-off point last week”, said the spokesperson.

A long and heated campaign to have radiotherapy services installed at Waterford Regional Hospital was waged before public patients were offered treatment at Whitfield, paid for by the HSE. At present, most of the cancer patients being facilitated at Whitfield come from Waterford, Wexford, South Tipperary and Kilkenny.