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Transfer of Cancer Screening and Diagnostics from Altnagelvin to Belfast would be devastating

28 March, 2007


West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Claire McGill has said that proposals by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) to transfer Cancer Screening and Diagnostic Services from Altnagelvin to Belfast would have devastating and far-reaching consequences.

The newly elected MLA said:

"In the review of pathology service provision in the six counties the DHSSPS is recommending that pathology work on tissue abnormality, used to diagnose cancers and other diseases be moved from Altnagelvin to Belfast. It is also recommending the transfer of pathology services from other local and enhanced local hospitals right across the six counties to Belfast.

"If this proposal is not stopped it will have devastating and far reaching consequences. Not only will it result in delays in the return of cancer screening tests, which will place undue stress and strain on people awaiting these results and their families, but it could potentially compromise the ability to ensure effective treatment intervention at an earlier stage.

"While the pathology review group has proposed that only histopathology and cytopathology services are to be moved from Altnagelvin to a single laboratory in Belfast, with other pathology work will remaining, bitter experience provides evidence that once some services are removed it undermines the sustainability of other related services which are subsequently removed by the DHSSPS on an incremental basis.

"The impact that these proposals will have west of the Bann, particularly, on the sustainability of Services at Omagh Hospital is immeasurable. The removal of these services of would severely undermine the ability of Tyrone County to maintain the current levels of diagnostic provision. This would undermine service provision right across west of the Bann. There is also a suspicion that these proposals are a pre-emptive strike by the DHSSPS to undermine the growing case for a Regional Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment Centre to be development at either Altnagelvin or Letterkenny to cover the entire catchments area in the north west region of Ireland

"It is ironic that this is even being considered given that NIO Health Minister Paul Goggins turned up in a blaze of publicity just last Wednesday to officially launch the new £18m Pathology Laboratory and Pharmacy Services Centre at Altnagelvin while at the same time the DHSSPS are recommending the removal of vital cancer screening and diagnosis services.

"This is an issue which elected representatives and the general public across the north west region of Ireland must be alert to and be prepared to unite to vigorously oppose these proposals. Sinn Féin representatives have met with consultants and medical staff on this issue, who concur with the analysis about the potentially far reaching and damaging consequences of these proposals. Sinn Féin, in our submission to the Departments Consultation on these proposals has argued for the augmenting of pathology services in all our hospitals as these diagnostic services are the bedrock on which the vast bulk of our health service provision, including community health provision, is built." ENDS

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