Inishowen patients requiring urgent blood tests or waiting on the results of blood tests face a worrying period of uncertainty from Sunday onwards.
And a spokesperson for Donegal Action for Cancer Care said yesterday the current situation is ‘far from ideal’.
The Journal has learned the contract of Letterkenny general hospital’s locum consultant haematologist Dr Hana Frankova finishes this week.
His replacement will not be in post until August 26, which may mean an unsettling fortnight of delay and disruption for patients throughout Donegal.
Despite making several attempts yesterday, the Journal was unable to contact any members of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to have the matter clarified.
Mrs Betty Holmes of Donegal Action for Cancer Care (DACC) confirmed her group was also aware of the potential interruption to Letterkenny general hospital’s haematology service.
She said: “DACC met the hospital’s assistant general manager, Mr Paddy Rooney on July 26 to discuss this matter. We were very concerned there was going to be a two week gap between Dr Frankova leaving Letterkenny and his replacement taking up her post and the negative impact this might have on patients in Donegal.
“Mr Rooney outlined the interim measures which the hospital is putting in place to deal with the hiatus. Apparently a consultant haematologist from Dublin will oversee Letterkenny general hospital’s haematology service until the permanent haematologist begins work on August 26.”
Haematology is the study of the cause, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention of blood diseases. Haematologists also study oncology, the medical treatment of cancer.
Newtoncunningham’s Betty Holmes said DACC would be keeping a ‘tight eye’ on the ongoing situation in Letterkenny general hospital’s haematology department.
She said: “DACC has not ascertained whether the haematologist from Dublin will be on-site in Letterkenny general hospital every day or will travel down to Donegal a couple of days a week.
“Whatever happens, patients are now facing the situation of having to deal with three haematologists within one month. This is far from ideal. DACC is not happy about the gap in service and we will be monitoring the situation very closely.”
According to the HSE’s website, Letterkenny general hospital’s haematology department carries out a considerable volume of work.
It says: “The Haematology Laboratory covers various areas within the haematology discipline including: complete blood counts (CBC), manual white cell differentials, reticulocyte counting, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and other referral tests for haematological diagnostic and disease monitoring tests.
“It also deals with coagulation (routine and special). Routine encompasses prothrombin time, partial thromboplastin time, fibrinogen assay and D Dimer assay.
Special Coagulation refers to testing for Hypercoagulable states and investigation of bleeding disorders such as clotting factor assays.”
The break in employment of consultant haematologists may therefore have a serious knock on effect for Inishowen patients many of them facing on the results of oncology–related blood tests.