Health – Transplant Services; Waiting Lists; Breast Cancer Drugs; Vaccination Rates

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I also request that the Minister come in and update us on the transplant situation. Over the past few years, those in charge of transplant policy in the country have felt it has been very unco-ordinated. We have seen other examples of problems in the health service where one critical retirement or one strategically important person going on maternity or ill-health leave has caused chaos in various services, such as in dermatology in Waterford, famously, a few years ago. It is hard to escape the conclusion that there is a certain lack of forward-planning in some aspects of the transplant service. It is critically important and it is something we get very right here in some ways and very wrong in others.

There is a broader issue. Further disclosures came out last weekend in support of something I said in this Chamber last year, namely, that there appeared to be extreme irregularities in the way waiting list figures in general are calculated. Some patients are only being put on waiting lists after having been given a definite date, while patients who are waiting to get the date are not counted as waiting list patients. This must be clarified because it is distorting all the metrics. As these metrics are increasingly being used on all sides of the debate for electoral purposes, it is critical that we get the facts correct.

I got a phone call before I came in, stating that the Department of Health has defended its decision not to provide a drug called Kadcyla for breast cancer patients on the grounds that it has not been shown to be superior to other drugs. I do not wish to give this House a lengthy lecture on the details of the treatment of HER-2 positive metastatic breast cancer, but that statement, if made, is factually incorrect. I am not advocating for Kadcyla. The company that makes it has very serious questions to answer about the predatory pricing structure it has put in place for this drug, but if we are to make informed decisions about it, we need to know the facts.

When the Minister comes in, I ask him to give us an update on vaccination rates in Ireland. I have had occasion to go over the figures for vaccination in this country over the past few years and I fear we are not doing well. There have been a few tragic examples. Approximately a decade ago there was an outbreak of measles in north Dublin, which led to deaths. It is critical that we get our facts straight on vaccination for all diseases that are publicly vaccinated against in this country.

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