AN East Antrim Assembly member discovered “entirely by chance” that a medical review of his cancer is eight months overdue.
Sinn Fein representative Oliver McMullan, who has prostate cancer, has now urged DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots to direct additional resources into oncology provision within the urology service which treats prostate and other cancers.
Mr McMullan has undergone radiation therapy and several scans, the results of which are to be discussed with him at the review.
He revealed that recently he had a call from the urology department at Coleraine’s Causeway hospital, offering an appointment at short notice, following a cancellation.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “I was unable to accept this appointment and when I enquired when my own appointment was due I was told it had been made for July, 2013. My main worry from is that my appointment is already eight months overdue and that other people are in the same position.”
Mr McMullan added: “When you are dealing with a serious illness, it is stressful for the patients and their families when they are waiting for appointments.
“And given the length of time that people are required to wait, then this is only adding to the worry for the patient and their families.”
The MLA stated: “My own enquiries have confirmed that the delays are due to staff shortages, combined with increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer. And given the recent statement from the World Health Organisation that cancer figures will reach pandemic levels in the coming years, it is important that we prepare now.”
This week at Stormont, Mr McMullan submitted a written question, seeking from Mr Poots information about the number of consultants employed in the specialty at Causeway and the number of other medical and nursing staff employed. He also asked wants waiting list details.
“I am urging the minister to investigate the delays at the urology department in Coleraine and look at supporting the already overstretched staff. He also needs to carry out a full review of cancer services with a view of reducing treatment times and ensuring that the service will be fit for purpose in the years ahead.”
Mr McMullan stressed: “This is not about my own case. There are people who can’t cope with their condition who will take these delays very badly. All sorts of things go through people’s heads.
“There is simply not enough back-up for people needing reviews and I think that people who have been treated for cancer are entitled to expect a bit more support.
“To be waiting for eight months for a review, and still not have a date for when it will take place is not acceptable. I would urge any patient who has been waiting for a review referral to enquire now as to when it is going to happen.”