Academic shocked at long wait for pain-relief care
A RETIRED college lecturer who is fighting pancreatic cancer last night spoke of his distress after being told he would have to wait eight months to see a pain specialist.
Patrick O'Callaghan (66), of Killybegs, Co Donegal, will embark on a course of chemotherapy next month after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early November.
But he had been informed he would not be able to see a specialist at Letterkenny General Hospital to manage pain relief until late May.
Mr O'Callaghan received his diagnosis in the Mater Hospital in Dublin -- the same hospital where Finance Minister Brian Lenihan also underwent tests.
Although he has private health insurance, the former Killybegs College lecturer was shocked when told he would have to wait to see a specialist who could provide the expertise to properly reduce his pain.
After pleading by his doctor, he has now been told he can be seen on Friday. But he fears that he will not be well enough to make the journey through bad weather at such short notice.
Mr O'Callaghan's predicament highlights how long waiting lists are to see a pain specialists.
"I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early November. My surgeon wrote to the oncology department and pain management departments about my diagnosis and requested immediate treatment," he told the Irish Independent. "By November 20 I had had no correspondence from either and met with my surgeon. He was aghast and wrote more aggressive letters.
"I got an appointment with the oncology department as they had to await more definitive results about my cancer and treatment is to commence in early February," Mr O'Callaghan said.
"I phoned the pain management section in Letterkenny and was told there was no correspondence about me. I said that there were two letters from my surgeon. After shifting through papers, eureka!, there they were.
"I received a letter two days before Christmas and was told an outpatient appointment has been arranged for Friday, May 21, 2010."
Since then, Mr O'Callaghan's wife Paula has been trying to relieve her husband's pain but said he needs specialist help.
He awoke at 5.30am in pain on Sunday night. "I took a tablet and did not know if I was taking the right one." Following more pressure from his doctor, Mr O'Callaghan finally received a call from Letterkenny General yesterday morning to attend the pain clinic at 10 on Friday morning. "We live 60 miles from the hospital. I don't know if my husband will be able to do the journey so early in the morning," Paula added.
"Patrick is on 17 tablets a day with nine different types of medication -- it is completely hit and miss." The most recent waiting list figures for medical patients needing medical procedures showed hundreds face delays for pain relief treatment. Some of these have been languishing on lists for more than a year.
There are 131 patients on a waiting list for pain relief treatment at Beaumont Hospital, and 96 at the Mater Hospital.
Outside of Dublin, there are 175 on the waiting list in Cork University Hospital and 135 in the same predicament at University College Hospital in Galway.