The HSE’s decision to scale back a proposed 42-bed oncology unit at Waterford Regional Hospital to 19 dedicated inpatient beds and pull funding for a hospice at the hospital have been slammed as outrageous by the South Eastern Cancer Foundation.
Campaigner and oncology nurse Jane Bailey said the decision was in no way in the best interests of cancer sufferers in the south east, with 40-60 beds at WRH currently occupied by cancer patients at any given time. The numbers of cancer sufferers in the region are expected to treble by 2027.
Challenging the view of Dr Brian Hennessy, consultant haematologist at the hospital, that the revised plans “had been arrived at through consultation involving senior personnel” involved in cancer care, Ms Bailey said he was certainly not serving cancer sufferers in the south east.
“It is a complete lie by HSE management to present a 19-bed unit as serving the needs of the south east”, she added. “This reduction of the oncology ward will cause untold hardship for cancer sufferers.”
Commenting on the lack of funding for the planned hospice, Ms Bailey further noted that the southeast had been identified as one of three regions in the country that cannot provide the minimum level of palliative care services. “Sixty two per cent of Waterford patients who died from cancer did so in hospital, compared with 23 per cent in the northeast because there was a hospice in that region”, she added.
In a statement, the HSE said the revised plans had been proposed following engagement with national director of cancer control Professor Tom Keane.
The new proposals, it said, included provision for 30 day beds, an additional 10 “review beds” with increased capacity to treat patients and the 19-bed in-patient ward.
The plans also included an expanded outpatient facility including consulting, diagnostic and treatment facilities for breast care, and facilities for other cancer services and is set to cost approximately €10 m more than the original scheme.
WRH is one of eight designated centres of excellence for cancer care in Ireland under the National Cancer Control Plan.