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Dismay that North West Cancer Centre not on North/South Health Ministers Agenda

17 July, 2007


West Tyrone Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty has expressed dismay that, despite their obligation to undertake collaborative projects on an All-Ireland basis, Health Ministers Michael McGimpsey and Mary Harney have held no discussions about the establishment of a satellite cancer centre in the North West.

He said,

"Given that the disparity in access to cancer service provision is most acutely felt by people living in counties in the northwest part of Ireland and given that this disparity is because the configuration of cancer care provision has been distorted as a result of partition, it would have been expected that discussions about the establishment of a satellite cancer centre in the north west would have been a major priority for Ministers McGimpsey and Harney as part of their obligation to undertake collaborative projects on an All-Ireland basis to the benefit of people on both sides of the border.

"However, Michael McGimpsey has now confirmed to me that has he held no discussions with Mary Harney on the issue and despite giving a general commitment to continue assessing the potential for further collaboration and co-operation with the Department of Health in the south, including the provision of cancer services, he somewhat dilutes this commitment by stating:

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.

"When I wrote to Mary Harney on the same issue last year, I received an acknowledgement of my letter and nothing of substance since. The provision of accessible cancer services for people in the north west region of Ireland should be a priority issue for both Ministers in terms of joint initiatives on an All-Ireland basis.

"All-Ireland configuration would justify an oncology unit for the entire North West, serving both West Ulster and North Connacht instead of very ill patients from this region being forced to undergo the additional burden of repeated and prolonged journeys to the only existing units in Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Galway.

"It is intolerable that cancer patients are subject to these long journeys and prolonged stays along away from home when there are two local hospitals (at either Altnagelvin or Letterkenny) that could house an Oncology Unit to meet the holistic needs of cancer patients in this part of Ireland.

"The provision of a Regional Cancer for the Northwest is a priority issue for Sinn Fein and we will be continuing to pressurise both governments that it also must become a priority for them if they genuinely want to address the disparity in access to cancer service provision on this island." ENDS

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