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ICGP / Irish Cancer Society report shows stark public – private divide

The report shows a striking difference in access to tests for cancer between the public system and the private system, according to a statement from the ICGP.

GPs cited unacceptable delays across a number of areas, but highlighted tests for gynaecological, neurological, urological and head and neck cancers, as particularly problematic.

Waiting times for MRI Brain scans were estimated to be on average 20 times higher in the public system than the private, while the difference in average waiting times between public and private systems for abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds is 70 days.

The Irish Cancer Society says that this report highlights a stark divide between those who can afford to pay for private health insurance and those who cannot.

“The grim reality of our health care system is that the difference between life and death can come down to your ability to pay for healthcare,” said Mr Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Society.

According to the report, 88.5 per cent of GPs surveyed said that ability to pay affected a patient’s access to referral services.

Commenting on the rreport, IHCA Presdeint Dr Gerard Crotty said hospital consultants are extremely concerned at the potential adverse consequences for patients arising from delays in accessing timely diagnostics.

“There are gaping capacity constraints in our acute hospitals due to a severe shortage of consultant radiologists and inadequate radiographer staffing levels. Assessment of the country’s diagnostic needs and international comparisons confirm that we have approximately half the number of consultant radiologists required on a population basis,” he said.

Dr Crotty called on the next government to properly resource acute hospitals so they can employ essential staff and address the acknowledged capacity problems. This, he said, is critically important to prevent not only diagnostic delays but also the unacceptable treatment delays being experienced by acutely-ill patients.

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