Tuesday 17 September 2019

Editorial: 'A bodyblow to confidence in battered health system'

Vicky Phelan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Vicky Phelan. Photo: Frank McGrath


The fallout from the cervical cancer scandal continues. A new 'wonder drug', which campaigning patient Vicky Phelan believes saved her life, could be freely available to everyone with cervical cancer by the weekend.

A deal to make Pembrolizumab, or pembro, freely available can be done immediately, says Labour Party TD Alan Kelly, who says he has the support of Health Minister Simon Harris.

Given Ms Phelan's case, pembro has given hope to women who find themselves in similar circumstances. Although, as with all treatments, it undoubtedly won't work in all cases, it will give a fighting chance to some women.

However, an agreement on the availability of the drug is yet to be reached. Given the politics and economics involved, it's not certain it will happen.

Mr Harris says he expects to hear progress on the availability of the drug in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Ms Phelan will release a memoir on her remarkable life story next year - the story of a woman whose bravery in speaking out led to the exposure of one of the greatest ever scandals within the Irish healthcare system is truly inspirational.

The book will tell her story, from surviving a life-threatening accident in early adulthood to later battles with depression and overcoming family tragedy. It will also reveal her journey through cervical cancer and life after going public.

Her story, particularly over the past six months, will hopefully serve as encouragement to many. However, Ms Phelan's case can hardly be hailed as a success for the battered reputation of the country's health service.

Unfortunately, our health system was hit by yet another bodyblow to confidence yesterday.

A shocking report of a review of thousands of patient checks overseen by a locum radiologist in University Hospital Kerry was published yesterday.

The report on a review of 46,000 radiology scans at University Hospital Kerry found 11 patients had their diagnoses of cancer delayed and four of these patients have since died.

The review was ordered after three serious reportable events were uncovered at the hospital. These involved the work of a locum consultant, who no longer works at the hospital.

The 11 patients involved had their diagnoses delayed. It also finds that the delayed diagnoses had a serious impact on their health.

The review throws up many questions about the management of the health service.

Any recommendations on future operation of the service will be of scant consolation to the families affected.

Irish Independent

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