Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West Éamon Ó Cuív says thousands of women’s lives are being put at risk because of the Health Minister’s failure to extend the BreastCheck programme to the over 65s. Minister James Reilly promised to extend the service to women aged 65-69 this year as part of the Programme for Government, and last year’s Future Health document contained a pledge to roll it out this year, however he’s pushed the extension date back until 2015 at the earliest.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “The BreastCheck screening programme is a vital tool in the early detection of breast cancer in women and has been in operation since 2000. The BreastCheck clinic opened in Galway in 2007 and since then thousands of women’s lives have been saved because of the early detection of breast cancer. The refusal of James Reilly to roll out the promised expansion this year further demonstrates his complete mismanagement of the health service. The Minister made the pledge in the full knowledge of the country’s economic circumstances, however it was dropped in the latest HSE Service Plan. The HSE itself has admitted the expansion could have been achieved for €500,000.
“It will now be 2015 before the Government’s commitment can be honoured. Many women who were in the 65-69 age group when the Minister made his promise in 2011 will now lose out, despite the fact that breast cancer deaths are among the highest in the 60-69 age category.
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Ireland, with more than 2,500 cases diagnosed every year. I am extremely concerned about the impact that the delay in extending this service to the 65-69 age group considering the fact that 1 in 10 incidents of the disease occur in that category.
“Minister Reilly’s incompetence in managing his department’s budget is now putting women’s lives at risk. His decision to renege on the promised expansion of this life saving programme will have a devastating impact on the women who are now losing out. I’m urging the Minister to reconsider his decision and honour his original commitment.