Senator Doherty demands Minister Harney meet northern counterpart
Addressing Minister of State for Health Máire Hoctor during yesterday’s sitting of the Seanad Donegal Senator Pearse Doherty called on Minister Harney to meet Assembly Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to progress plans for a satellite radiotherapy unit to service cancer care patients in the North West on a cross border basis.
Deputy Doherty said:
“While I welcome the Minister of State, I am disappointed that the Minister for Health is not present to confirm when she intends meeting her Northern counterpart, Mr. Michael McGimpsey, to discuss progress on the development of a satellite radiotherapy centre in the North West.
“In July 2005, the Minister of Health and Children, Deputy Harney, announced the Government's approval for a network of radiation oncology services in the Twenty-six Counties to be in place by 2011.
“According to recent reports, that the deadline has been moved to 2014 or 2015. Two years later, cancer care in this country is still largely focused on Dublin, to the detriment of the health of those living in areas such as remote parts of Donegal and the North West.
“Sinn Féin and others have consistently highlighted the need for the establishment of a satellite cancer care service in the North West, given that the disparity in access to cancer care service provision is most acutely felt by people in that region.
“This issue should be at the top of the agenda in terms of North-South co-operation. Very ill patients from the North West are being forced to undergo repeated and prolonged journeys to the only existing units in Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Galway.
“For too long the people of Donegal have been neglected by the political establishment. A dedicated satellite radiotherapy unit in the North West is what the cancer patients of the region need.
“Sinn Féin repeats its call for those patients in Derry, Donegal, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Sligo and Leitrim to have the same rights as those in the rest of Ireland. I welcome the decision announced yesterday that Letterkenny will be linked with the Sligo specialist cancer care unit.
“However, we must also recognise that two other parts of the puzzle are missing. The first is screening for breast, cervical and prostate cancers, and the second is radiation. A radiation oncology unit can be developed in the North West.
“The Northern Ireland Assembly reconvened in May. I urge Minister Harney to meet her Michael McGimpsey as a matter of urgency and put this issue on the agenda. My party's correspondence with Ministers in the Assembly indicates that Mr. McGimpsey is open to discussing this issue and wants to place radiation oncology on top of the North-South agenda. I ask the Irish Government to give similar priority to this issue.” CRÍOCH