A Buncrana woman suffering from a rare form of cancer has hit out at a decision not to renew the contract of one of the few specialists in Ireland dedicated to combating it.
Sarcoma is a type of cancer that affects around 250 people in Ireland each year, but Minister for Health, Simon Harris has announced that the contract for the specialist in the disease at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, Dr Alexia Bertuzzi, will not be renewed when it expires in two days’ time.
Lorraine McBride was diagnosed with Sarcoma in January 2012.
Initially Lorraine was initially operated on in London, but was rediagnosed with Sarcoma in March, 2014 eventually losing part of her left pelvis which has left her permanently disabled.
Sarcomas are rare cancers that develop in the muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels and the fatty and fibrous tissues.
They can affect almost any part of the body, on the inside or the outside.
Sarcomas commonly affect the arms, legs and trunk. They also appear in the stomach and intestines as well as behind the abdomen and the female reproductive system.
However, the Buncrana woman says that but for the dedicated care and expertise of Dr Bertuzzi she may not be around at all.
“Dr Alexia has saved the lives of so many people. She was the one that discovered my Sarcoma had returned and got me the care that I needed. She made sure I got back to London for treatment and examined me every three months.
“She is such an amazing doctor and hand on heart she saved my life second time around.
“Who is going to look after us now? Our lives are in her hands. What will happen when they let her go?”
Almost 8,000 people have signed an online petition in just a few days urging the renewal of Dr Bertuzzi’s contract.
However the Minister for Health and St Vincent’s Hospital have moved to allay fears that Dr Bertuzzi’s departure will leave a gap in services for Sarcoma sufferers.
In statement, a spokesperson for St Vincent’s said: “Patients’ ongoing care and management will be undertaken by the multidisciplinary team in the hospital, which has all the relevant specialities including surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology for the care of patients with sarcoma and other cancers.”
Lorraine McBride continued: “This is described as a rare condition, but I believe it is only described as rare because so few doctors knew about it. There are not a lot of doctors trained to treat it.
“We were so lucky to be put under Dr Bertuzzi’s care. It is so important to have this disease diagnosed early and that is what she specialised in, simply because she knows what she is looking for.
“This condition was only coming into the limelight because of people like Dr Bertuzzi.
“They are playing with people’s lives. This decision needs to be looked at again.”