Private breast cancer facilities must be licensed

A recent article in Irish Health highlighted the growing concern about the licensing of private hospitals that treat breast cancer patients. At present there is no licensing legislation in Ireland for private facilities treating women for the disease.

Europa Donna Ireland (EDI), the Irish Breast Cancer Campaign, has urged the Irish Minister for Health, Ms Mary Harney ‘to expedite this (legislation) process as much as possible’.

“We are pleased the Minister for Health is planning to introduce the legislation. We urge her to get it passed as fast as she can as it is vital for the health of women. We will be urging all the opposition parties during October to back the legislation and get it through as quickly as is possible. These hospitals must comply with the National Quality Assurance Standards for symptomatic breast disease services in the same way as the eight specialist public hospital centres,” insisted EDI vice-chairperson, Deirdre O’Connell.

She pointed out that the recent HIQA (Health Information and Quality Authority) review of standards in breast cancer centres did not cover private facilities.

“It is imperative that there is a licensing system and accreditation in place for all such facilities. Private facilities need to be subject to ongoing independent assessment of performance relative to national standards. Without HIQA or licensing, private facilities lack ongoing independent assessment of the quality and safety of breast cancer services,” Ms O’Connell said.

She added that such independent assessment would be a ‘major reassurance’ to patients and their families who need to be certain that the same requirements in relation to standards apply in private hospitals as apply in the public system.

Meanwhile EDI also announced that in order to mark Breast Health Day on October 15, it is encouraging women and men of all ages to take part in a healthy activity. It is widely accepted that engaging in physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and eating a healthy diet can help to protect against breast cancer.