Concern over child death rate in West Limerick

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Health Minster Leo Varadkar
Health Minster Leo Varadkar
Health Minster Leo Varadkar

HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar has been accused of ‘stonewalling’ West Limerick families who claim their community has been suffering from high rates of cancer among young people.

The Cappagh Farmers Support Group maintain that Minister Varadkar and his predecessor ignored findings in the 2001 Askeaton health report indicating that it had the significantly higher rate of deaths in children under the age of 14 than in other areas of the Mid-West.

According to the group, this trend has continued and no one in the health service has investigated it. They are now calling on Minister Varadkar to consider a pilot programme to scan children in the area in order to detect early detection of tumours if they exist, to put minds of parents at ease.

“We believe the health problems are out of control especially with cancer in young people. Parents have been in contact with our group and they have asked us to ask the Minister to consider a pilot programme,” explained Cappagh Farmers Support Group spokesman Pat Geoghegan.

The Cappagh Farmers Support Group also feels the Mid-Western Health Board (MWHB), having found such serious findings in relation to high mortality in children under 14 back in 2001, ignored the matter.

“Instead of having the findings investigated immediately, they walked away from the situation. The same applied to the HSE who took over later.”

The HSE says it has requested an updated review of cancer incidence rates in Limerick from the National Cancer Registry (NCRI) in response to local concerns that there may have been an increase in recent years.

In a statement to the Limerick Post  the HSE explained: “Because of concerns arising originally from animal health in Askeaton and its environs during the 1990s, several reports by different groups (including HSE and University Researchers) used NCRI data to examine human cancer rates in this area.

“The NCRI reports on all new cases of malignant cancer registered in Ireland and is the only source of incidence rates across geographical areas in Ireland.

“All previous reviews, from 1994 to 2006, showed no significant excess of cancer incidence in the Askeaton area, although significantly elevated rates were noted in parts of Limerick City.”

Because of recent new concerns expressed by a community group in the Askeaton/Cappagh area in July 2015, the HSE has requested updated small area analysis from NCRI for the same geographic areas as outlined in previous reports. The NCRI has complete records up until end of 2012.

Local GPs in the Cappagh/Askeaton area have also been requested to provide information on any unusual perceived patterns of cancer incidence. The findings of the updated review will be forwarded to the Department of Health as soon as they become available.