Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said the cancer screening backlog can be addressed but it will require funding that the Government seems unwilling to provide.
Deputy Pringle said: “The government is not accepting its responsibility to actually make these services available.”
He said: “There needs to be an immediate recruitment and reorganisation of outpatient and inpatient systems in the hospitals to increase the numbers of patients seen and to even get back to close to pre-Covid levels. And the HSE and the health care system have to accept that there has been a change. You have to fund it and you have to manage it.”
The deputy spoke in the Dáil in support of a Sinn Féin motion brought forward by David Cullinane, TD, calling on government to increase funding to enable cancer screening to operate at full capacity and deliver these services in a Covid-19 environment. Medical oncology services are operating at about 70 per cent capacity currently.
Deputy Pringle said that while the Minister agreed in his remarks that funding needs to change, the Government’s countermotion said no such thing.
He said: “The countermotion that the Government placed on the order of business makes no mention of that at all. It lauds the great job that the government is doing currently.
“They talk about cancer services continuing at reduced capacity and they blame the public, saying the initial public reticence to attend for cancer services is why they have been decreased. And still, at this stage, they are prioritising ‘effective resumption’ at some ill-defined stage in the future.
“That’s the problem.
“We all know that because of Covid that services had to be curtailed for an initial period, but they have to get going again. The Minister has talked about our resuming pre-Covid levels, but that’s pie in the sky. To get to pre-Covid levels you’re going to have to increase hugely the volume of people that go through the hospitals.
“The first thing you have to do is make the funds available,” Deputy Pringle said.
He said: “One thing the Covid pandemic has shown is that we can have a health service that responds to people and provides for the needs of the people. But it has to be funded. And if the government continues to deny that, we’re going to continue to have this system in crisis.
“And that’s going to be the real problem that we’re going to have in the future,” Deputy Pringle said.