Monday 23 October 2017

I would choose public care, says top oncologist

Dr Jerome Coffey is the interim national director of the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme and a radiation oncologist in the Mater Hospital
Dr Jerome Coffey is the interim national director of the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme and a radiation oncologist in the Mater Hospital
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The head of Ireland's cancer service said he would opt to be treated in one of the country's public hospitals if he was diagnosed with the disease himself.

Dr Jerome Coffey said he would have "no worries" about being treated in one of the country's eight designated cancer centres in public hospitals.

"If I had cancer - and there is a one-in-three chance I could have - I would have no concerns about attending a public hospital," said Dr Jerome Coffey, interim national director of the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme and a radiation oncologist in the Mater Hospital.

His vote of confidence in public cancer services comes after the reorganisation and concentration of expertise into eight hospitals - down from 32 in 2008.

"I honesty don't think there is a huge difference between public and private hospitals. If I had cancer and a private hospital was convenient and near where I lived I might attend one. But public hospitals have a full range of services.

"We have come a long way in a short period of time and now we must accelerate the progress," he told the Irish Independent.

Five-year cancer survival rates for men increased from 52.7pc for those diagnosed in 2000-2004 to 60.3pc in 2008-2010.

They rose from 57.3pc to 62.5pc for women during the same period.

An independent evaluation report on the 2006 national cancer strategy said excellent progress was made but highlighted a range of pressures and areas for improvement.

These include the need for more medical oncologists. There are 34 approved posts here but many more are needed to meet international standards.

Dr Coffey said the service was "getting there" when it comes to employing more medical oncologists and he hoped as the economy improves more will be hired.

"A patient who sees the same consultant every six months has a genuine relationship with them," he said. However, they may be seen by a junior doctor instead for their review - who does not have the same depth of knowledge.

Irish Independent

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