A terminally ill Mayo mother who returned to Ireland to die has said she is “appalled” by the Irish healthcare system.
Meabh Feerick from Ballinrobe was diagnosed with advanced and aggressive melanoma, a form of skin cancer, in December 2020.
Ms Feerick was living and working in Homebush, Sydney, and raising her three-year-old son Noah at the time of her diagnosis.
She had seen a doctor had seen a doctor five or six times about a small lump on the back of her neck and assured it was nothing serious over a period of two years.
However, Ms Feerick’s fears proved to be correct when she pushed for tests and discovered it was stage four melanoma, and her condition was incurable.
She underwent extensive head and neck surgery as well as a hip replacement to remove some of the cancerous tumours.
However, immunotherapy did not have the results she had hoped for and Ms Feerick decided to return home as her condition worsened.
A GoFundMe page helped Ms Feerick raise funds to return home with Noah.
Speaking to the Western People from her hospice bed in Castlebar, Ms Feerick said she has since discovered the health system in Ireland is “a mess”.
“I brought all my files, scans, etc home on a USB with all the information from my doctors in Australia. However, when I brought them to doctors here, they couldn’t read them or access them because of the Cyberattack on the HSE. As a result I had to have all the scans and x-rays done again but I was told this would take six to eight weeks. For someone with my diagnosis, this was devastating. There was such a backlog in the system, there was no room for me to be booked in for tests and scans. The whole thing was really scary and we kept hitting brick walls.”
An oncologist in Galway said Ms Feerick has between three to five months to live.
One nurse in Ireland is doing the job of five nurses in Australia.
“When I did get the scans, it then emerged that if the images were taken at Mayo University Hospital, they couldn’t see or transfer them to the team in Galway. There was a complete breakdown in communication.”
She added: “After I came home, I had problems with pain management and other issues related to my cancer and was admitted to hospital a number of times. On all of these occasions, my oncologist was never informed that I had been admitted and was never aware. When I was in Australia, the first person to be told I had been admitted was the oncologist.”
She said the oncologist is doing the best he can, but that the Government and Irish health system are letting her down.
“There are no resources and no staff. One nurse in Ireland is doing the job of five nurses in Australia. The system is shocking because budgets are so low. The whole thing is poorly run and so inefficient with nobody being held accountable.”
Despite the severity of her diagnosis, she said there was no urgency to her care after returning home.
“There were constant delays in getting appointments, scans and treatments, staff are completely overwhelmed. All of this has a knock-on effect. People’s diagnoses are taking so long that at times, their cancer has spread and the issues are much worse than they could have been.”
“I am disgusted and appalled to see that the system in our small country is so bad. If I had stayed in Australia, I would have had better options. I am embarrassed to say that because I came home, I have shortened my life,” she added.
Ms Feerick said the HSE are “hiding behind coronavirus and the cyberattack”.
She feels she would have received better treatment in Australia, but it was impossible for her family to join her due to the country’s Covid restrictions.
“I spent a lot of time on my own in hospital in Australia. I had time to reflect and make peace with my diagnosis. Now I want to try to make some sort of change here. We are letting people down. The Government need to see the effect they are having on sick people here and the issues they are causing among staff and patients in the system. This poorly ran and inefficient system is disgraceful.”