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Staff shortages leave radiation machines unused

The Irish Institute of Radiographers and Radiation Therapists has said it does not want to see machines that deliver vital radiotherapy treatment to cancer patients lying idle due to staff shortages.

The professional body says a review being carried out into recruitment and retention problems must be completed and its recommendations implemented without delay

Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, Ruth Woods – a council member with the IIRRT – said a number of machines used to deliver radiation remained closed. These included two in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Galway. Two CT scan machines were also unused.

Ms Woods said 50% of cancer patients needed radiotherapy and radiation therapists in pubic hospitals were currently working overtime to deliver it to them.

She said some of the treatment had been contracted out to private hospitals.

While some patients could experience delays in getting treatment, there was no danger to patients, she said.

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“There’s careful consideration to make sure we get patients in and started within good timeframes, in terms of their clinical outcomes.”

However she said the staff shortages were a concern for radiation therapists.

“We don’t want to see machines lying idle because there are not enough staff.”

Ms Woods said the two main problems were recruitment and retention of radiation therapists. Many had left the country. She said there were 42 college places a year for radiation therapists. She called for more practice tutor roles in hospitals, which would help retain staff.

In a statement the HSE said the shortage of radiation therapists was “an ongoing issue nationally and internationally, with the vacancy continuing to run at around 30%.”

The HSE said derogation for the recruitment of radiation therapist and medical physicist staff nationally had been approved.

Work was on-going to reduce the registration time, by CORU, for radiation therapists who qualify outside Ireland, the HSE added.

It said incentivised overtime schemes were in place to serve patients needs. There were also “outsourcing arrangements in place facilitating patient access to treatment within the designated timeframes”.

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