CANCER specialists have urged Stormont politicians to “do everything they can to drive down covid infection rates and keep them low” in a bid to curb the significant impact on cancer patients.
In a stark warning, the NI Regional Cancer Surgical group said “Northern Ireland must not prolong the period where so many of our specialist staff are unavailable for cancer surgery”.
It said it could lead to “continued delays in cancer diagnosis, delays in surgical treatment, more suffering for cancer patients, and may risk more untimely deaths from cancer”.
It comes just days after Health Minister Robin Swann warned that cancer sufferers could die as a result of the NHS having to prioritise coronavirus patients.
He acknowledged that people waiting for treatment for serious conditions such as cancer could suffer further as a result of the pressure on hospitals.
Belfast health trust chief Dr Cathy Jack last week also said the system was facing the “most difficult challenge” she had seen in her 33-year career.
She said having to prioritise some patients over others was leading to “moral distress” for clinicians.
In a statement last night, the NI Regional Cancer Surgical group said with large numbers of specialist theatre and intensive care staff caring for patients with Covid-19 “as a result we have had to cut back on diagnostic surgical procedures and surgical cancer treatments”.
The group, which was established in June in response to the first Covid-19 surge, said it recognised the “anxiety and the very real impact this has on patients and their families, and it is also a matter of great regret and distress to everyone working in the health service”.
“We would assure patients that their cases will be prioritised for re-scheduling as soon as possible,” they said.
“All of this starkly reinforces the urgent and continued need to drive down the infection rate in the community in order to decrease the number of people in hospital with Covid-19.
“This will allow specialist staff to resume their essential cancer work.
“The Northern Ireland Regional Cancer Surgical Group fully appreciates the incredibly difficult dilemmas facing NI political leaders.
“We would urge them to do everything they can to drive down Covid infection rates and keep them low.
“Northern Ireland must not prolong the period where so many of our specialist staff are unavailable for cancer surgery.
“The impact of this will be continued delays in cancer diagnosis, delays in surgical treatment, more suffering for cancer patients, and may risk more untimely deaths from cancer.”
It also appealed to the public to “help stop the spread of the coronavirus by following the public health advice to reduce our contacts with others, keep our distance, wear a face covering, wash our hands and keep to the Covid regulations”.
— to www.irishnews.com