The critical shortage of radiation therapists across the country must be addressed before more people retire, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Party spokesperson on health, Colm Burke, has called for the number of training places in third level colleges to be expanded to prioritise the vital service.
Deputy Burke said: “There is a 34% shortfall in radiation therapists across the country and as a result, four machines – which are extremely expensive – are not being used.
“Radiation therapists work at the coalface of cancer care and are the chief point of contact for patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment.
“They are the only professionals who undergo a rigorous degree programme dedicated to oncology and who can deliver radiation therapy. Their role must be respected and acknowledged.
“In a recent survey carried out by SIPTU, 60% of radiation therapists indicated they intend to retire within the next five years.
“We urgently need to encourage and facilitate more people to enter this profession.”
Deputy Burke continued: “I am calling for the number of training places for radiation therapists to be increased.
“There are currently only 30 training places in Trinity College Dublin at undergraduate level. A postgraduate course in UCC has 12 places. Only 42 people at any one time are in training in this country on a yearly basis.
“And it has been confirmed to me that the main issue is with the training places on the HSE’s end – UCC in particular would love to take in more students for this course and have capacity to do so.
“Having only 42 places available is totally insufficient for the demand that is there. These dedicated professionals perform work that is both physically and emotionally challenging. Many are emigrating.
“We need to take on board the findings of the SIPTU survey and take the necessary steps to ensure that the needs and concerns of radiation therapists are given the attention and consideration they deserve,” Deputy Burke concluded.