Ireland’s cancer services are to start again with elective surgeries and outpatients appointments are scheduled to be restored from June.
However, all services will not resume fully until the end of the year under official plans from the Health Service Executive (HSE).
One third of appointments will be held over the phone, or by video chat, according to The Irish Times, as part of the HSE’s three-phase pandemic plan.
Cancer appointments were wound down earlier this year due to the severe pressure placed on the health service by the third wave of the pandemic.
However, the plan suggests it will be autumn before the backlog of appointments and procedures is addressed and will require input from the private sector.
Avoiding a further surge of the virus in the State is paramount to the plan’s schedule, alongside the “full implementation of the vaccination programme”.
Cancer services should fully resume by the end of 2021, “assuming no significant disruption due to planned delivery, public health restrictions removed or eased, and no adverse winter months impact on acute hospital”.
Cancer screening services are also expected to increase to 90% capacity from June, and to 100% capacity from October.
The three phases are expected to run from March to June, July to September, and October to December, with the risk of flu and respiratory conditions in the winter also presenting a potential risk to the timeline.
The HSE predicts staffing will be a challenge in restoring services, as although absenteeism due to Covid-19 is expected to fall on account of widespread vaccination among staff, annual leave carried-over from 2020 will impact availability.
According to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) as of 8am on Monday there were 359 people with Covid-19 in hospital, 81 of whom were being treated in ICU.