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Minister urged to clear record backlog for bowel cancer tests

HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly was today urged to clear a record backlog of people waiting for tests just four months before a national bowel cancer screening programme is rolled out.

The number waiting more than three months for colonoscopies, which are often used to check for bowel cancer, is now 2,418. Nationally, 71 patients were waiting over a year for a colonoscopy at the end of August, compared to 33 in August, 2010.

The numbers waiting for the often vital test have more than doubled in a year, latest figures show. Around 930 people die from bowel cancer in Ireland each year.

The Irish Cancer Society's Kathleen O'Meara called on the minister, the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund to clear the backlog by the end of the year before the national bowel cancer screening programme is launched.

The husband of Susie Long, the women who died of bowel cancer in 2007 after waiting seven months for a colonoscopy, said today he was concerned that some people on the waiting list could die of as yet undetected bowel cancer.

"They may well be facing the same situation that Susie faced," Conor MacLiam said today. "I would have concerns that the situation is getting worse rather than better."

Following her death, then Health Minister Mary Harney admitted that the health service had failed the young Kilkenny mother.

Mr MacLiam, who is a health services campaigner and stood as a Socialist Party candidate in the last election, said he feared the public hospital system was being run down to facilitate greater privatisation.


The HSE says nearly all patients who require colonoscopies who are deemed urged cases are tested within 28 days.

However, the Irish Cancer Society says it would not make a distinction between "urgent" and "non-urgent" cases with regard to colonoscopies checking for possible bowel cancer.