A Deadly Wait


Bowel cancer is Ireland’s second biggest cancer killer yet it’s very treatable if caught early.  Despite this, a 1,000 people are waiting six months or more for a colonoscopy to detect the disease.  The result is that 50% of patients are being diagnosed with late stage cancer leaving them at best, facing invasive and expensive treatments or at worst, a death sentence.

In Ireland, one in 28 of us have a lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer.  Ireland lags behind many European countries when it comes to survival rates.  Part of the reason why our survival rates are so low is because public patients can wait excessively long times for colonoscopy appointments. The key to making a diagnosis of colon cancer is a colonoscopy.

Last night, Prime Time gave this scandal the coverage it’s deserves.  Here’s a link to what Conor MacLiam, husband of the late Susie Long, had to say on the programme…

If this clip fails to play (following the short advertisement), click on the address bar and it should work!

Conor MacLiam, Susie Long’s husband, says he is very concerned for the people that are in urgent need of a colonoscopy

If you’re worried about bowel cancer you can call:-

National Cancer Helpline: 1800 200 700


National Treatment Purchase Fund: 1890 720 820

7 Responses to A Deadly Wait

  1. Baino says:

    Steph it’s a similar scenario here for what is considered an ‘elective’ procedure but from what i can gather it’s not the hospitals at fault in Australia, it’s booking the specialist to perform the procedure. Because I’m a private patient for instance, I was able to see a specialist within 2 weeks and had a problem been found, I would have been booked into hospital within the month. However had I been a public patient wanting to see the same specialist, I could wait up to 2 months! Clearly specialists prefer the private patronage. Bowel cancer is slow growing so the best thing to do is a regular FOBT test (my father died from metastatic liver cancer after a bowel cancer operation). This should be done every two years and indicators will allow the patient to book into a specialist in good time before waiting for the late stage symptoms. This might be helpful: http://www.cancervic.org.au/downloads/bowel_screening/fobt.pdf

  2. Steph says:

    Hi! Baino

    Thanks for that. The waiting lists in our public hospitals are due to inadequate/reduced resources. People on waiting lists cost nothing; colonoscopies cost approx €600 each. It’s as crude at that. It’s yet another example of short-sighted cost-saving measures because not only is prevention always better than cure, it’s much more cost-effective. A delay in diagnosis means that a bowel cancer is not caught at an early stage, resulting in the need for more radical and expensive treatments.

    The public hospitals are dictated to on how many procedures they can carry out in any given time span and once they’ve reached that target, the patients have to wait until further resources are made available. The HSE only thinks of it’s budgets, it’s not about the patients. Private medicine is funded by insurance companies and the very wealthy, and can therefore offer reduced waiting times.

    I’m delighted you’ve brought up the subject of bowel screening (FOBT) as I had intended to write a post on it shortly. Your link is excellent btw. The absence of a bowel screening programme in Ireland is set to become the next health scandal. Mark my words!

  3. Ian says:

    My mother had a colonoscopy in early August that discovered a large tumour; the biopsy results indicated it was benign. The consultant was a young man and when she went for her appointment on 18th August, she was told that second colonoscopy would be undertaken for precautionary reasons – it took place on 29th August, eleven days later. There were some early signs of malignancy. On 25th September, she had bowel surgery, removing a six inch length of the bowel and reconnecting the ends, and was home on 2nd October. All on the good old NHS in Taunton.

    Ireland’s problem is that health care and the market mechanism do not go together.

  4. Steph says:

    Hi! Ian

    I’m sorry to hear of what your mother has been through recently but having said that, it’s very good to hear that she was correctly monitored and as a result, now has a brighter prognosis.

    You may be interested to read this story about a lady in the US who did not have access to affordable health care until she reached 65, and sadly is now paying the price of that deadly wait.


  5. Laura Daly says:

    The idea that this test and others like it could save a person’s life does not seemed to make a daamm bit of difference in this country. The thing is if you want to fight Cancer on all fronts your need to think about prevention as well as cure. Prevention can only be brought about by using these tests and dare I say it available vaccines as early preventions. Cancer and time do not play nicely together you have very little time to beat it and the time you loose waiting can never be got back. If that makes any sense. Again well done Steph on a good post.

  6. Steph says:

    Hi! Laura and thanks!

    I’m just back from the hospital having had a follow-up gastroscopy (for a stomach ulcer). I was spared having a colonoscopy today though I’ve already had my fair share of those over the years for the management of colitis and diverticulitis. I don’t mind being scoped as it gives good peace of mind when you get the all-clear, as I did today 🙂

    I was initially referred by my GP directly to this consultant-led endoscopy unit in a public hospital. Only those patients with complicated medical conditions are required to be seen by the consultant in charge so waiting times are kept to a minimum. I was very satisfied with the professional treatment received and felt no need to see a consultant. I was investigated, diagnosed, treated and followed-up with utmost efficiency and kindness.

    What you say about the time wasted in getting investigated makes absolute sense. The unit I attended today operated the same waiting list for public and private patients i.e. access was equitable, the only difference being that my health insurance will foot the small charge made for attending a public hospital. This is how private health insurance should/could work within a properly run public health service.

    Great to hear from you again, Laura. I’ve my fingers crossed that things are going well for you at the moment ❗

  7. […] The waiting time for a colonoscopy appointment in the public system, can be six months or more – a deadly wait for […]

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