I welcome the opportunity to update the House on this matter. St. Vincent's University Hospital advised my Department on September 25 that the person recruited to fill a permanent post of consultant medical oncologist with a special interest in sarcoma would not be taking up the post. The individual was due to commence this position on 1 September. However, on 17 September, human resources at St. Vincent's University Hospital was advised that the individual would not be taking up the post due to personal reasons.
St. Vincent's University Hospital is a voluntary hospital that operates its own recruitment policy and has full discretion regarding appointments. The post was re-advertised on 6 October with a closing date of 3 November. I am advised that St. Vincent's University Hospital has completed the short-listing of candidates for the consultant medical oncologist post and that interviews are scheduled for the end of January.
Over 200 adults are diagnosed with some form of sarcoma every year in Ireland and it is important that decisions on the management of these cases are made through a multidisciplinary team process. Multidisciplinary teams can involve clinicians and other medical personnel, as well as health and social care professionals, based in several hospitals. The output of their deliberations provide recommendations on the best approach to investigations, treatment and follow-up for the individual patient.
It is important to note that both St. Vincent's University Hospital and Cork University Hospital will continue to provide excellent care for this cohort of patients. A national clinical lead in soft tissue sarcomas is in place and will continue to oversee these services. Patients have their cases presented and discussed at one of the two sarcoma multidisciplinary teams and members of these teams have links with European specialists in sarcoma. St. Vincent's University Hospital and Cork University Hospital are designated cancer centres and have an extensive range of multidisciplinary services and expert clinical advice available. St. Vincent's University Hospital also has access to all of the relevant specialties for treatment, including surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology. This Government and the Health Service Executive are committed to providing a high-quality, responsive and sustainable service for sarcoma patients.
The National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026 aims to meet the needs of cancer patients in Ireland for the next decade and sets out the plan for the development of cancer services. Effective prevention, early diagnosis, access to quality treatment, survivorship, patient involvement and safe, high-quality, patient-centred care are key aims of the strategy. Services for rare cancers, such as sarcoma, received considerable attention in the development of the strategy. Many rare cancers can be difficult to diagnose and require complex treatment. The importance of improving awareness of rare cancers among both healthcare practitioners and the public is acknowledged. The strategy also identifies the need for clear care pathways for the diagnosis and treatment of patients, with particular emphasis on timely treatment planning at multidisciplinary team level. This includes sub-specialty expertise in diagnosis and treatment with linkages to international centres of excellence for specialist advice and intervention.