More patients suffer chemo delays following contamination
The number of cancer patients suffering the distress of delayed treatments due to a shortage of chemotherapy escalated last night, the Irish Independent has learned.
The HSE was forced to admit yesterday that the recent chemotherapy contamination scare led to five cancer patients having their treatment postponed at Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda.
It has earlier emphatically denied there was a problem.
However, last night it confirmed eight more cancer patients due chemotherapy infusions have had them delayed until next week at University Hospital Limerick.
And Cavan Hospital is also not getting supplies of the treatments on time.
The shortage is leading to increased stress for patients as they battle the disease and face disrupted routines.
The admission came after the shortage was brought to the attention of the HSE by the Irish Independent on Wednesday.
This led to a trenchant denial by its press office on Thursday that there were any problems.
However, yesterday it was forced into a climb-down.
A HSE spokesman said last night its cancer control and acute hospitals division had been told of the shortage by hospitals but there was an "error" in collating the information.
The Irish Independent has also learned that some ill cancer patients have had to be transferred from Portiuncula Hospital to University College Hospital, Galway, and from Connolly Hospital to Beaumont Hospital due to the shortage.
Yesterday's HSE statement came as another worried cancer patient had to go on RTE's 'Liveline' to reveal how their treatment was postponed.
The latest embarrassment comes three weeks after the HSE was alerted by Fannin Compounding in Dublin that one of its machines which mixes chemotherapy was contaminated with a potentially lethal bug.
Around 200 patients had been already administered chemotherapy before the recall of suspect products.
The medicines watchdog, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, said yesterday it has not received reports of any cancer patients being affected. The company's supplies are essential to supplement chemotherapy mixed "in-house" by hospitals.
The HSE had claimed two weeks ago that it was implementing an "immediate and co-ordinated action" on the recall. This was in response to fears expressed by Mary Murphy (68) of Kilcullen in Kildare who said she was wrongly told she got suspect treatment after its recall.
The HSE press office was asked by the Irish Independent on Wednesday if the chemotherapy recall had caused treatment shortages for patients.
The HSE responded on Thursday, stating: "The recall has not led to any shortages for patients. Ensuring that patients receive timely and appropriate treatment is the highest priority for the HSE." But yesterday, the HSE finally admitted: "Some hospitals throughout the country are currently experiencing difficulties securing continuous supply of chemotherapy drugs."