A Donegal cancer patient has decided to ‘stand up and scream’ for more services at Letterkenny University Hospital.
Roseena Doherty (Toner) from Clonmany is undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with leukaemia in May 2021
The holistic therapist and mum of five underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant earlier this year.
As her treatment continues, she has seen the dire need for more facilities and more services in Donegal.
Roseena had the majority of her treatment in Galway and at St James Hospital in Dublin, where she had the transplant, but her appointments in Letterkenny have been an eye-opening experience about the imbalance of resources, she said.
LUH currently has one ward with 11 beds to accommodate all haematology and oncology patients in Donegal. The day unit has 10 chairs, when up to 30 patients may need treatment on any given day.
The reality of the situation came as a shock to Roseena when she developed a temperature during a day visit and needed to be admitted.
She said: “Because of my transplant I am very susceptible to infection I need to get an isolation room. I figured out that another patient would have to be moved for me to get a bed.
“Throughout the hospital, you’ll find cancer patients being treated in other wards. I don’t understand how this is okay.
“How can a hospital ward accommodate only 11 cancer patients in a county where the population is 150,000?
“People are travelling daily to Galway, making awful journeys, for treatment they could have in Donegal if the HSE facilitated a proper unit in Letterkenny. We are also pressing on the resources in Galway.
“Then there are patients who are missing treatments because they haven’t got a bed.
“When you have cancer and you are meant to have chemo on a Wednesday and it’s pushed back a day, you can’t help but think it is growing every day. Your stress levels are through the roof.”
Roseena said a dedicated cancer care unit in LUH would bring relief to patients up and down the west coast, freeing up more resources in Galway too.
“I’m not expecting a state-of-the-art fancy unit. We need a purpose-built building or clear a corner in the hospital to make a 30-bed unit, but that is still probably going to be too small in the grand scheme of things.
“The day unit needs at least 20 chairs to take the pressure off and cut waiting times.”
Roseena said the issues and the delays are no reflection on the staff at the hospital, who are second to none.
“I’ve had the best care from doctors, nurses, cleaning staff and catering staff,” she said. “They do their best with the little resources they have and it’s awful watching them trying to accommodate everyone and offer the best care they can with what they have.”
For the past fortnight Roseena has been campaigning online and in media to highlight how Donegal’s haematology and oncology patients are impacted by what she says are inadequate resources.
“I’m not going to accept that this is just the way it is. I am sitting watching younger people and older people having to sit all day waiting, it’s heartbreaking,” she said.
Roseena has written to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and he has so far responded asking for her date of birth and address, she said.
“I’m intrigued to see why he needed the details. I want him to come to Letterkenny and acknowledge what we need.”
Sinn Fein TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn, who has been in contact with Roseena, asked the Minister last week what are his plans to add more beds to the cancer care ward at LUH. The response was that a new Aseptic Compounding Unit and extension of Oncology Day Unit Project is included in the Capital Plan 2022 for appraisal. Pending results of the appraisal by the HSE, the project will be eligible for prioritisation and consideration in the Capital Plan 2023.
“Talk about brushing a thing under the carpet,” Roseena said.
“I feel for every single cancer patient that comes through that door, every single one of us is sitting praying for our lives. And you have these people in the Dail and in the HSE that don’t seem to care.”
“We are a big county, I have come to see we are far too accepting of that’s the way it is. We are far too polite and far too accepting of being pushed aside. We need to stand up and scream and shout.”