SIPTU calls for emergency plan to deal with staffing deficits in cancer services

SIPTU representatives have called on the HSE and the Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, to develop an emergency plan to deal with the deficits in cancer services resulting from a 30% shortfall in radiation therapists.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “Our members have established that the staffing deficit is causing increasing delays in cancer treatment. There are currently at least four cancer treatment machines that are not in operation around the country due to a lack of qualified radiation therapists.

“These machines could treat around 30 patients a day meaning there may be as much as 120 cases not being dealt with on a daily basis due to staffing deficits. Radiation therapists perform a crucial job, as almost half of people with a cancer diagnosis will require radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. This treatment is delivered by radiation therapists as part of a multi-disciplinary team. It is the only profession with the legal authority to deliver radiation therapy services which are mainly provided by the HSE in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

“We have successfully argued for the setting up of the Radiation Therapist Review which will hopefully recommend measures to improve recruitment and retention. The union is calling for a short-term emergency plan to bridge the gap between the present situation and when the recommendations of the Radiation Therapist Review are agreed and implemented.”

He added: “The HSE and the Minister for Health need to act decisively to avert a full-blown staffing crisis within cancer services. Our members are calling for special provision to deal with the recruitment and retention issues for radiation therapists due to their crucial role in the delivery of cancer services. They have also requested that sufficient dedicated support staff be placed in radiation therapy departments to help with patient flow and to support radiation therapists so more of their time can be focused on carrying out treatment.”