Children’s Health Ireland denies Sinn Féin claim on chemotherapy cancellations

By Cate McCurry and Cillian Sherlock, PA

Children’s Health Ireland has rejected claims by Sinn Féin that hundreds of child chemotherapy appointments for children were cancelled last year.

It comes after Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said around 250,000 hospital appointments were cancelled last year, including 800 chemotherapy appointments for children.

Ms McDonald said there are not enough staff working in the healthcare system, and urged the Government to solve chronic overcrowding in hospitals, adding that another 3,000 hospital and community beds are needed to fill the gaps.


“On the watch of this Government last year, 250,000 hospital appointments were cancelled. That is a record,” she said.

“In each case that represented a phone call to somebody who has waited with worry to be told that the care they need has now been cancelled. Some 800 chemotherapy appointments for children were cancelled.

“A cancer diagnosis for a child must be utterly devastating for a family. The instinct of any parent in that situation is to go to the ends of the earth to care for their child.

“A parent wants to know that the system has got one’s child, that the system will catch them and has their back.

“Just imagine the cancellation of a child’s chemotherapy appointment. This is the cancellation of an appointment which a parent knows is a big part of one’s child’s fight.

“The Government has to stop this happening, I say to the Taoiseach. To stop the problem of cancellations, the Government must solve chronic overcrowding created by the Taoiseach’s Government’s policy.

“Any of us who have seen the dedication of doctors and nurses caring for cancer patients are literally blown away. They live and breathe for their patients but we need more of them.

“We do not have enough healthcare staff right across the system. We need 3,000 additional hospital and community beds and well the Taoiseach knows it.”

In his response, Taoiseach Simon Harris accused Ms McDonald of being “disingenuous” in her presentation of the figures.

“These are not just my words,” he added.

“In the press release which Deputy McDonald’s party issued this morning suggesting a large increase in the number of hospital procedures cancelled in 2023 to 2022, accompanying that press release which is on the deputy’s party’s website, the HSE specifically said not to compare one year with the previous one because it is not comparable.

“The HSE specifically said that it would not be reflective and should not be compared with 2023. It is important if we put information into the public domain that we are accurate in respect of it.”

In a statement on Wednesday evening, CHI said: “There are no ‘cancellations’ in chemotherapy treatment.

“The majority of delays/deferrals are due to patient-specific reasons and based on clinical decisions relating to the patient’s medical condition at the time. Patients may need to be rescheduled for a number of clinical reasons.”

It said reasons for delays include that blood tests indicate that the treatment should be deferred, the child may be unwell and unable for treatment, or that treatment is no longer required.

CHI said that delays or deferrals relating to inpatient beds or staffing are rescheduled to the earliest available bed or space, which is usually between one and two days.


It added: “Day cases may take slightly longer to be rescheduled, but are also done as soon as possible.”

Mr Harris also said that 28,000 additional staff are working in the health service since the last general election in 2020.

He added: “When the deputy talks about recruitment freezes, pauses and the like, it ignores the reality that this year the Irish health service has money to hire 2,200 additional staff.”

Mr Harris told the Dáil that cancer mortality rates have decreased by 14 per cent for men and 13 per cent for women.

The Taoiseach said this was better than the European average of 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

“We have a plan to eradicate cervical cancer,” Mr Harris added.

“Huge progress has been made, and I note the deputy’s support in that regard for the HPV vaccine and the like.

“We can actually eradicate a cancer in this country by 2040, and the Minister for Health [Stephen Donnelly] will publish the plan as to how he intends to do that this year.”