Saturday 24 September 2016

State has failed cancer patients yet again

Published 05/10/2015 | 02:30

The financial hardship endured by cancer sufferers must be acknowledged in the forthcoming National Cancer Strategy
The financial hardship endured by cancer sufferers must be acknowledged in the forthcoming National Cancer Strategy

That the stress of managing the cost of cancer is greater than the stress of having the disease for many patients is an indictment of a failure by the State to alleviate the burden of a debilitating, often life-threatening, disease that one in three of us will contract in our lifetimes.

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The State's resources, which are improving, are not unlimited. But even in these still straitened times, measures can and must be put in place to ease the financial burden for cancer patients, one in 14 of whom do not have a medical card or private health insurance, according to a study conducted on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society.

Cancer services have been re-organised from 36 facilities into eight centres of excellence to improve outcomes for patients. But it is unconscionable that having centralised services, patients - particularly in rural areas - are bearing massive travel and parking costs as a result of Government policy. Patients are paying up to €200 a month for travel costs, with hospital parking costs peaking at €78 a month in parts of Dublin alone.

Three out of four cancer patients who apply for medical cards receive them, indicating that the State recognises at some level the particular financial and emotional toll borne by people at a time when they should be concentrating on their physical recovery.

As in other areas of administration, our social welfare system as it pertains to cancer patients needs to be streamlined and made more accessible. So too must the Government consider the needs of the self-employed who in particular are vulnerable to catastrophic drops in income following a cancer diagnosis.

The hidden costs of drugs, GP visits, food and accommodation as patients embark on their cancer journey are making a hard road an impossible one for too many.

The financial hardship endured by cancer sufferers must be acknowledged in the forthcoming National Cancer Strategy.

O'Leary's right, Ireland needs Britain in the EU

The intervention by Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary in the 'Brexit' debate is significant, even if some of his commentary at a recent British-Irish Chamber of Commerce dinner was typical of the bluster that can accompany many of the airline's public statements.

Throwaway remarks about the "weird ideas" of the French aside, Mr O'Leary - who has had numerous brushes with European authorities - has come out strongly in defence of the single market as a driver for economic growth in Ireland.

At a time when British Prime Minister David Cameron has refused to rule out campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union if certain conditions are not met, Mr O'Leary has correctly highlighted the importance of and weight attached to the voice of Britain in Europe.

Ireland is not a passive bystander in the 'Brexit' debate.

Britain is our closest neighbour and biggest trading partner, with whom we share a common legal heritage. In so many ways, we are closer to Bristol than Berlin.

Mr O'Leary's call for Irish voices to be heard in the 'Brexit' debate in the weeks and months ahead is one that should be heeded and acted upon.

Irish Independent

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