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CHI row with Sinn Féin on chemotherapy figures

There has been some controversy over whether chemotherapy treatments for children have been cancelled.

The official position today is no but the response to a parliamentary question recently seemed to suggest otherwise.

When Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson David Cullinane put in a Parliamentary Question on hospital-initiated cancellations he was given data from the HSE’s Acute Operations Division in relation to Children’s Health Ireland (CHI).

Those figures showed over 800 chemotherapy day case cancellations for children and young people last year.

The PQ also noted that among the reasons for cancellation of scheduled care appointments can be, increased Emergency Department attendances, unforeseen events like infection outbreaks or industrial action or staffing shortages.

A hospital-initiated cancellation is defined as the rescheduling of a case by the hospital due to circumstances beyond its control.

After the matter was raised in the Dáil yesterday by Sinn Fein, Children’s Health Ireland responded, effectively challenging the assertions by Sinn Féin.

CHI has insisted that there are no cancellations in chemotherapy treatment and that most delays or deferrals are due to patient-specific reasons and based on clinical decisions relating to the patient’s medical condition at the time.

CHI said that patients may need to be rescheduled for a number of reasons, including: patient blood tests indicate treatment be deferred, the patient is unwell and unable for treatment or treatment is no longer required.

It added that delays or deferrals due to inpatient beds or staffing are rescheduled to the earliest bed or space, which is usually one to two days.

CHI said day cases may take slightly longer to be rescheduled but are also done as soon as possible.

Mr Cullinane took the HSE to task saying its definition of a hospital cancellation in the original PQ answer did not set out that it may involve rescheduling treatment for clinical reasons.

Today, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the original HSE answer to the PQ was probably badly written.

He said that the classification of the postponement of children’s chemotherapy as cancellations was wrong but that no one was necessarily trying to misrepresent anything.

Mr Donnelly said that CHI has given a categoric statement that there are no cancellations of children’s chemotherapy but there are deferrals for clinical reasons.

The HSE says acute hospitals deliver over 3.5 million outpatient appointments, 1.1m day case episodes and over 600,000 inpatient treatments a year.

The cancellation of around 250,000 appointments overall last year is in the context of that scale of cases.

While it represents an increase of over 50,000 cancellations on 2022, hospitals are also treating an ever-increasing number of patients and there are a wide variety of reasons for cancelled or deferred procedures.

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