Clarity Sought Over Border Radiotherapy

About 100 people attended a public meeting in Derry on Monday night to discuss a planned radiotherapy unit at the North's Altnagelvin Hospital - which saw the Stormont Health Minister Michael McGimpsey criticised after reports that he has funds to build the centre - but not to staff it.

The proposed radiotherapy unit is a regional unit to serve the North and the wider north-west of Ireland and had been due to open in 2015, but earlier this month, Michael McGimpsey said an £800m shortfall in the NI health budget meant the unit would be built, but there was no cash to run it.

He claimed that the cuts mean 4,000 jobs in the health service could be lost over four years.

The SDLP's local Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan said the attendance showed the huge amount of public feeling there is about the issue and the concern cancer sufferers and their families have about their future health provision.

The Northland councillor said the argument for the radiotherapy unit must be made on its regional merits and not made on parochial concerns.

"The proposed radiotherapy unit is a regional unit to serve all the people of the north and the wider north-west of this island.

"We must not allow this to fall into a parochial argument. The merits of the unit relied on it alleviating the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, which is already over demand, and providing a first rate service for cancer patients heading into the next decade and beyond.

"That was the reason why the Executive initially fell behind the unit and that is where we should refocus our efforts. This should be needs based, not geography based," he said, on Tuesday.

"The demand for the highest standard of radiotherapy treatment does not fall along geographical lines or constituency borders.

"All elected representatives in Derry need to refocus their efforts to convince the minister and the Executive that not only is this unit needed in Derry, it's needed by everybody in the north and the wider northwest of the island," said the nationalist politician.

"I call on the Minister to clarify the position he made to the Stormont Health Committee two weeks ago regarding the building and running costs of the unit.

"This uncertainty is doing nothing to help those suffering from cancer, those facing radiotherapy treatment and those entering the most daunting period of their lives without the guarantee of care by the department," he said.

Last Friday, members of Co-operating for Cancer Care NorthWest also met the Western Health and Social Services Trust to discuss the radiotherapy unit.


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