Cancer chief to stay on

Cancer "Tsar" Prof Tom Keane is to stay on in his post while a new director for cancer services is being sought.

Prof Keane told the Oireachtas Health Committee today that he has written to HSE CEO Prof Brendan Drumm indicating his willingness to facilitate the transition pending the appointment of a permanent director of the National Cancer Control Programme.

His two-year term as interim director of the programme officially ends on November 30.

Prof Keane said his staying on as interim director for the time being is subject to agreement with his employer, the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Canada, and the University of British Columbia, from which he is on secondment to the Irish programme.

He said there was a mechanism for the HSE to retain his services for a specified period beyond November 30.

Prof Keane has overseen a major reorganisation programme for breast cancer services from smaller hospitals into eight major designated centres.

At the Committee meeting today, he said the final transfer of breast caner diagnosis and surgery services would take place from the South Infirmary Victoria Hospital to Cork University Hospital in December.

He also outlined progress on plans to reorganise other cancer services from smaller units into major centres including:

*The transfer of rectal cancer services from 41 hospitals to eight centres. This is due to start from January 2010.

*From January, all pancreatic cancer surgery will take place only at Dublin's St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin.

*Head and neck reconstructive cancer surgery will be moved from six centres to one centre, again St Vincent's, by the second quarter of next year.

This project is behind schedule, partly due to delays in getting a consensus among the surgeons involved in this area, Prof Keane said today.

In addition, he said rapid access diagnostic clinics for prostate cancer and lung cancer are now opening and will be set up by next year in all of the eight designated cancer centres.

View our recent interview with Prof Keane here

[Posted: Wed 21/10/2009]

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