Recruitment crisis in cancer services staff resulting in lifesaving machines lying idle

SIPTU representatives have highlighted that a lack of recruitment by the HSE of radiation therapists has resulted in lifesaving machines for treating cancer patients being left idle in hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Speaking at the ‘Next Steps for Cancer Services in Ireland Seminar’ on Thursday (7th March) SIPTU National Radiation Therapist Executive member, Olivia Brereton, said that “the staffing crisis is having a devastating impact on our services”.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Mr John McCamley, said: “At least six machines are lying unused in services across the country including St. Luke’s Oncology Network in Dublin, Cork University Hospital, and Galway University Hospital. This is down to a lack of radiation therapists on staff to operate the machines.

“Every time a machine lies idle, it means someone’s access to cancer treatment is delayed. Under the National Cancer Strategy, the timeframe from cancer diagnosis to commencing treatment should be three weeks. Ireland is not currently meeting that target.”

He added: “As a union, SIPTU has highlighted the need to address the staffing crisis through the progression of the radiation therapy review, and a comprehensive strategy for retaining experienced staff. We also want to see an expansion of undergraduate and postgraduate places to increase recruitment of radiation therapists and support for students during clinical placement”.

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment. This treatment uses beams of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Modern methods of radiation delivery require high accuracy. Radiation beams are directed at the tumours while healthy tissue is protected from high doses of radiation.