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All Ireland Oncology Services essential - Ministers' response 'patchwork' approach

27 July, 2005

Sinn Féin Derry City Councillor and Local Government Health spokesperson Billy Page speaking after the first ministerial meeting between British direct rule Health Minister Sean Woodward and Tanaiste Mary Harney and the publication of the of the regional cancer strategy by the Southern Department of Health has urged the Irish and British direct rule Health Ministers to develop an all-Ireland approach to the development of regional cancer services.

Cllr Page said:

"Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that the two Ministers have now discussed the issue of regional cancer services. It is vital that this is the first step in developing an all-Ireland approach to the delivery of oncology services

"However, the failure to give a clear commitment to a regional cancer centre for the North West is a mistake.

"Cancer patients in the North West endure severe hardship during treatment. In some cases women even are prepared to undergo a mastectomy rather face the arduous trek to Dublin and beyond. Mary Harney's bland assertion that people in the North West could utilise Belfast as a regional cancer centre shows her lack of understanding about the barriers faced by people living in this region.

"While a 400 million euro commitment is a good first step we need to move beyond a patchwork approach. This is the only first Ministerial meeting between Sean Woodward and Mary Harney. We now need to see early progress towards an all-Ireland planning approach to deal the provision of not just oncology services but for the full spectrum of health services as well as the wider socio-economic agenda on issues such as job creation, education, infrastructure development, energy and the environment."

Cllr Page has been working closely with his Sinn Fein Donegal counterparts, Buncrana Town Mayor, Donegal County Councillor Padraig MacLochlainn and Cllr Pearse Doherty on the establishment of a North West regional oncology facility.

"The Border has a hugely negative impact on people's lives, particularly in relation to access to healthcare provision for cancer patients. Border communities continue to suffer as a result of partition. Healthcare practitioners and service providers are in agreement that the practical solution to ease cancer patients hardship is the implementation of a an all-Ireland healthcare system to address their needs."

Mr Page added that political will is central to not only decision-making but policy direction.

"This meeting is a recognition we need to work beyond the artificial border if we are to deliver essential services and particularly to provide equal access to services. It is a recognition that we need to develop and build the all-Ireland approach. It is wrong that the Border such should deny people equal access to services or mean that people only have access to second class healthcare provision." ENDS

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