Co-operating for Cancer Care North-West has challenged Northern Ireland Party Leaders to pledge their commitment to approve the North West Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin NOW – ahead of the Assembly elections.
Spokesperson Noelle Duddy said they are looking for an assurance from the new Health Minister to immediately approve the project and put a deadline of 2016 on it.
“We welcome the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly’s statement re-affirming that he and the Irish Government are fully committed to the development of radiotherapy facilities at Altnagelvin and are committed to working with the Minister for Health in Northern Ireland to achieve this.
“Cancer recognises no borders, no political party or creed. We believe North-South cooperation for this radiotherapy unit is a win, win situation for everyone: for cancer patients, healthcare professionals, research & development, politicians and for the tax payer on either side of the border.”
“To date, the NW is the only Region on this island without reasonable access to radiotherapy services. Members of CCC(NW) have campaigned for 6 years to correct this anomaly.
“We recognise Letterkenny General Hospital or Altnagelvin as a suitable site for a public radiotherapy unit in the NW. However, we recognise it cannot be both.
“We recognise that by joining together the populations on either side of the Border, the ‘critical mass’ required to safely provide a radiotherapy service can be achieved.
“We recognise as a region, the North West is co-dependent on both jurisdictions accepting responsibility to provide its people with a Radiotherapy Service.”
She added that when both Governments agreed in 2008 that radiotherapy services would be sited at Altnagelvin, it was agreed that cancer patients do not have the time to have such a decision high-jacked by political, professional or personal agendas.
“We believe that the central ethos for this Unit must be one of social inclusion, equal access according to clinical need and a true cross border partnership based on LGH and Altnagelvin working to develop each other’s strengths so that a comprehensive, fluent, seamless radiotherapy service is provided for all cancer patients in the North West Region.”
“By 2016 the Belfast Cancer Centre will have reached its radiotherapy treatment capacity for the NI population (including the 2 extra machines due to be installed in Belfast in the next couple of years).
“If extra capacity is not planned for and ready by 2016, waiting lists for radiotherapy treatment will become a fact across NI. Cancer patients requiring radiotherapy will experience delays in their treatment. Donegal patients will have to continue to travel to Dublin or Galway.
“One third of the patients who will attend the proposed Unit will be from Donegal and the surrounding areas (approximately 360patients/year) and in recognition of this fact the Irish Government is committed to providing a capital contribution of €19 million to the Project. (In addition, the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) will contribute to the operating costs of treatment for patients from the Republic. The Department of Health and the NCCP have representatives on the Cross-Border Sub-Group, the Project Board and the Service Design and Workforce Planning Sub-Group for the development of this Project).”
“We in Donegal are disappointed that Minister McGimpsey did not ‘sign off’ the radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin prior to the dissolution of the Assembly.
“The development of this Unit has implications for Donegal as well as Northern cancer patients. However, no matter how frustrated we are by the delay in approving this project, we remain patient and optimistic that it will be approved, by the next NI Minister for Health following the Assembly elections to be held on the 5 May.
“CCC(NW) asks that we continue to work together, across communities, across parties and across borders to complete this vital project,” she said.