Cancer treatment delay ‘not unique’

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Another cancer patient in Oslo has told her story of lengthy delays in getting treatment that she feels may threaten her life. A leader of Norway’s cancer association (Kreftforeningen) said her story is “not unique,” and very sad.

Therese-Lovise Colohan Valseth, age 32, went public over the weekend with her story of having to wait 10 weeks this spring from the time doctors discovered that her aggressive cancer had returned and spread, to when treatment finally began. She told newspaper Aftenposten that she was told the delay was blamed on a lack of radiologists and staffing to run diagnostic equipment.

The long wait was frightening as Valseth’s tumors grew and spread, because of an alleged lack of resources even at Norway’s largest cancer hospital, Radiumhospitalet, part of Oslo University Hospital. Government and administrative officials have claimed that a massive merger of Oslo’s biggest hospitals into Oslo University Hospital wouldn’t affect patient care.

“I’m the patient it has affected,” Valseth, a young mother, told Aftenposten. “I have come to terms with the fact that I may die, but I’m scared to death on behalf of my son.”

Valseth’s story follows reports last week of allegedly illegal delays in cancer treatment at Oslo hospitals, and weeks of drama regarding tight budgets and implementation of the hospital merger. The top administrator for Oslo University Hospital resigned earlier this month after disagreeing with orders from the hospital’s board that she adhere to a budget that would require NOK 500 million in cost cuts.

Technical trouble, too
Meanwhile, a massive technical breakdown at the new Akershus University Hospital in Lørenskog over the weekend led to more criticism of Norway’s health care system. Doctors had to use their private mobile phones and patient journals had to be written out on paper when the hospital’s computer network stopped working.

All incoming patients requiring acute care were sent to other hospitals during the nearly 15 hours that the network wasn’t functioning, from Saturday night into Sunday. Patients already admitted faced delays in receiving medication, but medical staff claimed no lives were in danger.

“It of course is very serious when a computer system hinders the admission of new patients,” said Health Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, who also has been under pressure because of the treatment delays and drama around hospital mergers in the capital, where many people from all over Norway are sent for treatment. Strøm-Erichsen said, however, that “crisis preparations” seemed to function “and other hospitals have been able to receive patients.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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