AS many as 1,100 women a year are skipping potentially life-saving appointments and are failing to turn up at the dedicated breast clinic in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle.
The level of “no-shows”, which is running as high as one in six, is costing the clinic up to €150,000 a year.
A campaign to try and reduce this number has been undertaken by the clinic but the Limerick Leader has not been able to discover to what extent this appeal has succeeded.
In a letter which is given to women along with their appointment time at the Symptomatic Breast Clinic, Dr Anne Merrigan and Dr Shauna Tormey appeal to women to notify the clinic if, for whatever reason, they are unable to keep their appointment.
They also highlight the fact that in 2011, there were 1,117 missed appointments at a time when the clinic is dealing with over 6,500 attendances. “These prevented others from availing of the opportunity to see a specialist,” the letter goes on before adding: “We are concerned by the impact that missed appointments are having on your ability to treat patients, use hospital and staff time effectively and keep waiting times down.”
However, nobody from the clinic or from the HSE was available to speak to the Limerick Leader about whether the level of no-shows was higher in the mid-west than in other regions or to discuss the possible reasons why over a thousand women were ignoring their appointments, particularly given that these appointments follow on a referral from a GP. On average, the clinic in Dooradoyle, which caters for women from all over the mid-west, dianoses ten new cases of breast cancer each year.
However, one cancer survivor, Marion Fitzgibbon, who is better known for her involvement with Limerick Animal Rescue, has stressed the importance of keeping appointments.
“I can’t emphasise enough how important it is,” she said, making the point that it was an appointment she kept which pinpointed her second cancer early enough for it to be successfully treated.
On the issue of no-shows, she said: “It is never one thing but a combination.”
However, she added: “I can understand why people don’t want to hear bad news. Unfortunately, the Irish are very good at saying it is better not to know if it’s bad news. And women often put themselves last and ignore their own health.”
But she emphasised though getting an early examination, an early diagnosis and treatment are critical.
And she regretted the fact that cancer continues to strike fear into people, even though treatment and survival rates have improved hugely.
“The majority of cases are good news and women should remember, everybody’s case is different, everybody’s case is individual,” added Ms Fitzgibbon.