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Sinn Féin representatives take demand for North West Satellite Cancer Centre to Belfast and Dublin

2 October, 2007

In a co-ordinated action, Sinn Fein representatives from throughout the North West will be presenting a letter and petition of protest to Department of Health Permanent Secretaries in Dublin and Belfast tomorrow over the continued failure of Ministers Mary Harney and Michael Mc Gimpsey to progress plans for a satellite radiation unit based in the North West of Ireland serving cancer patients on a cross border basis.

Sinn Fein elected representatives from Donegal, Strabane, Omagh, Derry and Limivady will be taking part in tomorrow's action to highlight what the party describes as the continued lack of political will being exhibited by both Ministers in their continued failure to include the issue of a satellite cancer radiation unit for the North West, on the agenda of their North South Ministerial discussions.

On the eve of tomorrow's Sinn Féin protest action, West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty, who has been continually lobbying both Ministers for the provision of a satellite cancer centre based at either Altnagelvin or Letterkenny said,

"Both health ministers have a joint obligation to undertake collaborative projects on a cross-border basis to the benefit of people on both sides of the border.

"It would have therefore been expected - given that cancer patients in the North West counties are further removed from access to radiotherapy services, than any other region of Ireland that the establishment of a satellite cancer radiation centre in the North West would have been a major priority for both Ministers in terms of ensuring equality of access to these vital services.

"To date, the response of both Ministers to repeated representations on the issue has been dismal. While Minister Mary Harney hasn't even bothered to respond to letters I have sent her on the issue, Minister Michael Mc Gimpsey has confirmed that the issue has not even been discussed at a North South Ministerial level and went on to say that:

"Specialist regional services for cancer in 'Northern Ireland', including radiotherapy services, are provided by the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, which opened in March last year. The Cancer centre was developed to meet 'northern Ireland's' needs with respect to radiotherapy until 2015"

"Planning and configuration of cancer service provision on an All-island basis would justify an oncology unit for the entire North West instead of very ill patients from this region being forced to undergo the additional burden of repeated and prolonged journeys to the to Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Galway.

"Tomorrow's protest action by Sinn Fein representatives from throughout the Northwest is designed to highlight the fact that both Ministers are failing the people of the North West by not being prepared to take an all-Ireland and cross-border approach on this crucial issue- an issue which has already, or will in the future, impact upon the lives of so many families in the region." Críoch

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