By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

The news that more than 100 people have had cancer procedures, including surgery, cancelled in the Belfast Health Trust due to the Covid-19 pandemic is a terrible blow for those awaiting treatment and their families.

Dr Chris Hagan, medical director of the Belfast Trust, said: “I am really sorry. The last thing we would ever have wanted to do is cancel those operations.

“I’m trying to reassure people that we will do our absolute utmost to reschedule those cases as quickly as we possibly can so that those patients don’t come to any harm.”

So far 106 procedures have been cancelled including both surgeries and scopes.

Marie-Louise Connolly, BBC News NI Health Correspondent, reported that one of the people affected is a 72-year-old woman who lives in Keady in County Armagh.

Her gynaecological procedure was scheduled for today but it has been cancelled.

Her daughter Siana McGleenon has written to the Chief Executive of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) and members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In a letter she said the surgery could save her mother’s live.

“I want answers to why you would do this, why you would make someone that is getting sicker by the day wait and wait. Would your mother be left to wait?”

Dervilia Kernaghan, head of care services, Cancer Focus NI, said: “We are extremely concerned about the number of cancer related procedures that have already been postponed during the second wave of coronavirus. We acknowledge the extreme pressures that the health service is under and welcome the Health Minister’s £12.1m funding to prioritise diagnostic services. However, we are worried about what lies ahead with the likelihood of further postponements if too many patients are admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and medical resources are diverted to deal with them.

“On top of this there will be an inevitable backlog and wave of later stage diagnoses creating further pressure on our health system, as those diagnosed at a later stage often need more intensive and expensive treatment compared to those diagnosed at an early stage. More resources need to be made available on a long-term basis and built into the new Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland. 

“Delays in treatment place enormous stress on patients and on their families, who are waiting and worrying. For many cancer patients, time is not a luxury they can afford.” 

 
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