THE number of women waiting for breast cancer screening in Donegal has risen to 6,800, according to new figures from the HSE.
The BreastCheck service is facing major backlogs due to Covid-19 and although screenings resumed late last October they were again suspended in early 2021 due to high levels of the virus in the community. Appointments began again from March but a spokesperson for the HSE told the Donegal News this week that they are restricted to operating just three days a week in Donegal quite regularly.
“The focus of the resumption of routine screening is to achieve a maximum invitation rate that is compatible with a safe and controlled follow-up assessment and our treatment capacity within the health service,” said the spokesperson.
“In resuming screening invitation letters will be sent first to those who had their appointments cancelled in January 2021, invitations for all other women due routine screening will follow and women in the assessment phase of breast screening will continue to be seen.
“BreastCheck redeployed services to assist acute hospitals in managing their waiting lists of women with symptoms. This temporary redeployment enabled high-risk patients with symptoms to be seen quicker, with the aim of improving the outcome of any diagnosis during a time when breast health resources were constrained.
“As of June 2021, there are approximately 6,800 women awaiting screening in Co. Donegal.
“Where staff resources allow, we are open 6 days a week in Co Donegal, but can be restricted to three days a week quite regularly. Covid-19 screening restrictions still apply but we do look at uptake and adjust accordingly where possible. We also refill any cancelled slots highlighted to us in time.”
In relation to CervicalCheck the HSE did not have any specific figures on how many women are waiting for appointments in the county.
They said this year they expected to process almost 300,000 cervical screening tests nationally. However, they have processed 200,000 tests in the first six months of this year which they say is well above the planned volume in 2021.
“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic test results are returned between 8-10 weeks after a sample has been taken. This is within the safe time frame to receive results within a CervicalCheck as we are screen for HPV which can cause a very slow developing cancer. Cervical cancer is a rare outcome of a HPV infection, and it takes 10-15 years for cervical cancer to develop,” added the spokesperson.
Letterkenny University Hospital has continued to deliver the Bowelscreen service despite Covid-19 and the recent cyber attack.
The HSE said they are currently working with host hospitals to maximise the volume of follow-up procedures they can accommodate safely during Covid-19.
“The National Screening Service’s bowel screening programme, was paused on 30 March 2020 on Public Health and Government advice to stop the spread of Covid-19 BowelScreen restarted screening in August 2020 after a four month pause,” said a HSE spokesperson.
“Despite Covid-19 & the recent cyber-attack Letterkenny University Hospital has continued to deliver the BowelScreen service. It is anticipated that all clients due to be invited to participate in this current round will be invited by the end of the year.
“Invitation numbers have been impacted due to Covid-19 and the cyber-attack.”
Nationally the number of invitations issued in June, 2021 was over 18,000.
Posted: 4:00 pm August 4, 2021