Lack of clarity on chemo scare is not good enough
Published 17/10/2015 | 02:30
In crisis management, experts will tell you, the secret is not to get concerned about good versus bad, but to focus on preventing the bad from getting worse.
Yesterday, we learned from a radio show, and from Independent.ie, that 200 cancer patients in at least 13 public hospitals have been told to have medical checks over concerns their chemotherapy treatment may have been contaminated.
In a mass communication age, it reflects very poorly that anxious relatives of patients should have to contact news outlets to attempt to soothe their fears about their situation.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority said that the problem was identified on Monday.
But one woman quoted in this newspaper said how she was contacted having had chemotherapy on Wednesday.
Questions will be asked as to why patients were still undergoing a treatment that was potentially a risk.
It must be stressed that the notification to patients is a precautionary measure but relatives have understandably expressed their dismay at their perceived lack of information on the issue.
The HSE says that there is no indication "at this time" from the manufacturer of the drugs that any treatment has actually been affected.
The original alarm was sounded after a machine used to manufacture the treatment was found to be contaminated with bacteria which can cause very serious gastro-intestinal infections.
Again, it should be appreciated that a contaminated test product does not automatically mean that the medicines produced are affected, but it will trouble patients.
Yet there are too many unhappy precedents in the handling of health scares for there to be any tolerance of insensitivity.
It is more than 21 years since the trauma of the hepatitis C scare gripped this country.
The critical lesson from the handling of that tragic story was that information must be shared and explained.
Patients should not have to go around with medical dictionaries in their pockets to get the answers.