Cancer patients at Waterford clinic will not get VHI cover

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VHIIRELAND - Health insurer VHI does not cover its members for radiotherapy treatment in the south-east, despite the recent opening of a cancer centre in Waterford.

Health insurer VHI does not cover its members for radiotherapy treatment in the south-east, despite the recent opening of a cancer centre in Waterford.

The VHI has confirmed that it does not cover its members for radiotherapy treatment at the Whitfield Cancer Centre.

It said it was adhering to new guidelines used by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Sunday Business Post last week revealed that public cancer patients in the southeast did not have access to radiotherapy treatment, although equipment lay idle at Whitfield.

Martin Cullen, Minister for Transport and a Waterford TD, described the situation as ‘‘appalling’’ and the issue was raised at cabinet level last week.

Whitfield has the only linear accelerator - specialist equipment which is used to shrink and destroy tumours and cancers - in the south-east.

It is capable of treating up to 35 patients a day, yet local patients with cancer have to travel up to 100 miles to receive treatment.

The HSE will meet management at Whitfield this week with a view to seeing cancer patients treated locally as early as January.

Cullen said he hoped the issue would ‘‘be resolved’’ in the interest of good patient care’’.

However, a resolution depends on Whitfield meeting a number of new guidelines.

The HSE said it would not sign an agreement with Whitfield until it installed a second linear accelerator.

Whitfield has commissioned a second accelerator.

The HSE guidelines also stipulate that the cancer centre must have 24-hour clinical cover provided by a consultant radiation oncologist, even though this is not a demand made of other centres that provide radiotherapy.

A spokesman for the HSE said the radiotherapy guidelines were devised by an expert group appointed by the Department of Health, not by the HSE.A spokeswoman for the VHI said the health insurer would also allow existing facilities a period of time - if they are currently not in compliance - to meet the new guidelines.

‘‘The standards required by the HSE are national standards, and it makes sense for the VHI to adopt these standards,” the spokeswoman said.

Whitfield Cancer Centre is a joint venture between Irish healthcare consortium Eurocare International and UPMC Cancer Centres, one of the largest networks of cancer physicians and healthcare specialists in the United States.

It works with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, which is ranked among the top cancer institutes in the US.

source The Post Ireland 

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