Covid-19 threat to push cancer services out of Cork hospitals

Covid-19 threat to push cancer services out of Cork hospitals
Coronavirus warnings outside CUH A&E, CorkPic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

PLANS are being developed to move cancer services in Cork out of hospitals in a bid to protect patients from the coronavirus, it has been revealed.

Cancer doctors have raised concerns that, as more cases of Covid-19 enter hospitals in the region, conditions become less safe for cancer patients who are more likely to catch the virus and die as a result of it.

Cancer care teams in Cork University Hospital (CUH) and the Mercy (MUH) are carefully considering how to safely relocate their cancer day wards out of the two hospitals, according to Dr Dearbhaile Collins, a Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Department of Medical Oncology in CUH.

Speaking to The Echo, Dr Collins explained that cancer services in Cork have changed significantly in the past month in the face of Covid-19.

“The hospitals in Cork have been planning and preparing against Covid-19 for many weeks now, with Dr Richard Bambury at the helm, who is the Clinical Director for Cancer Services in CUH,” she said.

Dr Dearbhaile Collins
Dr Dearbhaile Collins

“Our cancer services have changed significantly over the past four weeks.

“We have changed the majority of our outpatient clinics into telephone clinics, thus we bring patients into the hospital much less and only when deemed absolutely necessary - so I spend my clinic hours seeing four or five patients but phone calling 25,” added Dr Collins.

“We also minimise patients waiting together for long periods in the waiting room, so we spread out appointment times for those who need to come in and try to see them rapidly.

“Our inpatient ward has become more protected from other non-cancer patients in the hospital as our population is a vulnerable group against this virus.” The new standalone Radiotherapy Unit in the Glandore Centre at CUH ensures that cancer patients can enter the hospital without coming through the main building.

“On Monday, we are opening our Acute Oncology Stream where we will assess and manage cancer patients away from the emergency department, offering them an alternative route for assessment and care outside of A&E,” explained Dr Collins.

“Unfortunately, those cancer patients who may have Covid-19 will still need to follow the normal routes set up in CUH for coronavirus assessment, but the remainder will hopefully be able to avoid entering the main CUH emergency department and be reviewed by dedicated cancer staff.

“We are also hoping to move out of CUH and the Mercy,” she added.

“As more and more Covid-19 cases enter the hospitals, our patients become less safe and more space will be needed for the sick coronavirus patients.

“We have kindly been offered Brookfield by University College Cork who has been a steadfast ally and research partner with us over the years.

“We are currently exploring how we would safely move our day ward to this location.

“Other options are also being considered carefully by us as a team.”

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