Michelle O’Neill in tears over alleged threat to cancer patient’s treatment

By Michael McHugh, PA

Stormont deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill has broken down in tears at the plight of a cancer patient reportedly told her treatment will probably be stopped due to pressures on the health service caused by Covid-19.

Assembly member Jim Allister, speaking in the Stormont chamber, said one of his North Antrim constituents believes their chemotherapy course could be curtailed because of the mounting strain on the NHS.

However, health chiefs have said essential treatments, like cancer care, are still scheduled to continue during the pandemic.

After hearing Mr Allister speak, Mrs O’Neill replied: “What do you say?

“What can you say to that person?”

She paused to compose herself during the Assembly session in Belfast.

With her voice breaking, Mrs O’Neill continued: “These are the challenges we are going to have to deal with.”

Mr Allister was contacted by a constituent worried about a relative’s cancer treatment on Monday.

The patient said she was led to believe that a chemotherapy session scheduled for next week was likely to be her last.

The Northern Health Trust, which delivers services in Mr Allister’s constituency, said: “We have no current plans to stop chemotherapy treatment.”

Earlier this month, Stormont’s Department of Health said: “Suspect cancer cases and other urgent care will continue, unless advised by the applicable trust.”

Mr Allister said: “Today on the floor of the Assembly I raised the heartbreaking case of a young mother who has been advised that her cancer treatment will no longer continue after Monday week because of the coronavirus crisis.

“The lady concerned has fought a courageous battle, motivated in no small part by her young daughter.

“I have written to the Health Minister (Robin Swann) asking him to intervene in the case and requesting clarity on what changes have been made in relation to the treatment of cancer patients more generally.”