HEALTH Minister David Anderson MHK plans to go ahead with changes to the breast care service despite opposition raised at a public meeting.
After almost two hours of debate, only 10 people out of more than 100 voted in favour of the department’s plans for the breast care service.
Despite the concerns raised – many by people who had experience of breast cancer – Mr Anderson insisted his proposals were the ‘best way forward for breast care in the Isle of Man’.
The meeting, held at the Manx Legion Club, Douglas, on Monday was called by the Breast Cancer Action Group (BCAG).
The group believes the DoH’s plans to employ a general surgeon with an interest in breast care, and not a dedicated breast surgeon, would be a downgrading of the service.
Mr Anderson, who was on the panel, said: ‘What we are doing is replacing a temporary person with a permanent post. People in the audience don’t all believe it but what we are saying is that we are going to enhance the service by putting this person in place.
‘The only way they will believe it is when they see it on the ground.’
BCAG, which is supported by Douglas East MHK Brenda Cannell, believes the job specification means the replacement would work fewer hours on breast care and there would be a cut in the number of breast care clinics.
Noble’s Hospital medical director Stephen Upsdell said while the department planned to advertise for the surgeon to work 40 hours a week, it was hoped they would work more than this.
He said 40 hours was the maximum number of contracted hours they could apply for by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), but that after the appointment, they had the ability to increase the number of hours in agreement with the post-holder.
The surgeon would be one of four on call for general surgery work.
Mrs Cannell said she had been in touch with Mike Zeiderman, consultant surgeon and director for professional affairs for the RCS, who said in his experience the surgeon’s time would be split equally between their specialist interest and general surgery.
But Mr Upsdell said the ‘majority’ of the surgeon’s time would be spent doing breast surgery.
Jane Rose from the BCAG said she understood the current locum surgeon, Ishrak Hamo, couldn’t apply for the post because she had not worked in general surgery for many years.
Mr Upsdell said until she applied for the post in 2008 she had been practising as a general surgeon with a special interest in breast surgery and had been on the general surgery on-call rotas until she came to the island.
‘She may be a little rusty but it wouldn’t be impossible to appoint her,’ he said.
BCAG’s petition demanding a dedicated consultant has more than 4,000 signatures. It is expected to reach 5,000 by the end of the month, when it will be presented to Mr Anderson.
The health minister said: ‘The Department of Health’s proposals have the sole motive of developing and enhancing our breast care service and it is for this reason that I firmly believe and remain resolute that the current proposals, which I will continue to progress, represent the best way forward for breast care in the Isle of Man.’
Following the meeting Mrs Cannell said she was writing to Mr Anderson to give him notification of a motion she was putting forward for June’s Tynwald sitting. She said she would tell him it would be inappropriate to advertise for the position until then.
If unsuccessful, she said the BCAG plan to present a petition for redress of grievance on Tynwald Day.
The appointment of a permanent dedicated consultant surgeon to lead breast services was part of a three-phase plan to enhance the service. The latter phases involve the introduction of a sentinel node biopsy service and a breast reconstruction service.
A leaflet explaining the changes is available on the DoH website.