Covid-19 pandemic highlights inequalities in healthcare system, according to expert

Covid-19 pandemic highlights inequalities in healthcare system, according to expert

A Cork consultant medical oncologist has said that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities in the Irish healthcare system.

A Cork consultant medical oncologist has said that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities in the Irish healthcare system.

Consultant Medical Oncologist Prof Seamus O’Reilly said that particular strategies need to be looked at in order to tackle such inequalities that have been brought to the fore by the pandemic.

Speaking to The Echo, Prof O’Reilly said that screening programmes and treatment need to be made more accessible to the 13% of people in Ireland who are immigrants and to those who are disadvantaged.

He said that CervicalCheck “has been very good with that” through its programme for non-nationals to encourage non-Irish born people who live here to use their services.

Prof O’Reilly highlighted that the healthcare system currently allows for those with symptoms who have private insurance to seek medical advice and treatment at a private hospital but that those who do not have private insurance rely solely on the resourcing of public hospitals leading the disadvantaged to become more disadvantaged because they’re joining a queue.

“I think we need to look to other countries as well to see how they’re doing things in the way that other screening programmes should look at CervicalCheck and how they’re addressing people with different ethnic backgrounds in terms of encouraging them to be involved in CervicalCheck - I think that’s a fantastic initiative on their part,” he said.

He said that Cancer Trials Ireland, which he is involved in, held a national cancer retreat back in May and looked at how things could be done better as a result of Covid.

Professor Seamus O'Reilly, Cork. Pic; Larry Cummins
Professor Seamus O'Reilly, Cork. Pic; Larry Cummins

“I think the pandemic has exposed things but innovation is also accelerated by a crisis. In England, the Royal College of Surgeons has done this thing called a New Deal for Surgery that looks at how they can maximise their human capital so if you’re a surgeon and retired then maybe you could come back and do two sessions a week for us or say you’re on a career break or don’t want to work full time so that way they are looking at all of the talent that is available to them.

“It would be good to look at each area such as cancer screening and diagnostics and prevention to see what other people are doing and what we could be doing. 

"And, for information sharing, for instance, Breast Check could learn from Cervical Check and vice versa,” he said.

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