20/05/2011

Altnagelvin Cancer Unit Decision Imminent

Next week is looking increasingly like 'D Day' for campaigners backing the postponed new radiotherapy unit that was to be built at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.

The new Health Minister (pictured) is expected to announce on Monday if he will give the go-ahead for the previously shelved scheme with the DUP Executive Minister, Edwin Poots expected to tell the Stormont Assembly of his plans after consulting with patients and cancer specialists.

That comes after an outcry - led by the DUP Leader and First Minister, Peter Robinson - after the former Health Minister, Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey, said there were no funds to run the unit.

Today, Mr Poots said his decision would be based on good quality information.

"I don't believe that it is in the interests of anyone to drag this out," he said.

"I will certainly be taking a non-partisan, non-political decision when it comes to this. It will be purely based upon health care," he promised, after saying the radiotherapy decision at Altnagelvin Hospital was a priority.

Since then, he has visited both patients and staff in Londonderry and at the cancer centre in Belfast.

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre at the City Hospital in Belfast where he heard first hand the views of staff and patients. He said: "I will make the right decision for the right reasons. To do this I must consider all the evidence.

"I came to the City Hospital to listen and to hear from nurses, doctors, patients and administrators.
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"It is important that I know their views on the way forward. On Tuesday, I met with a staff and patients at Altnagelvin who shared their opinions and experiences with me. For me, it was a very positive and enlightening visit."

He also noted that he would be examining thoroughly the 'Outline Business Case' for the unit in Londonderry.

"The decision will be made very soon but it will be based on thorough examination and careful consideration of all the facts. This is the responsible course of action."

Roisin Foster, Chief Executive, Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF), has today added her voice to the chorus and urged Edwin Poots to give the 'green light' to the development of a new radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital as soon as possible.

UCF stressed that there was an urgent need for accessible local services to treat cancer patients and said that a new radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin Hospital would bring significant benefits to patients living in the area.

"We are deeply concerned for patients in both the West and East of Northern Ireland.

"Patients in the West/North West may have to travel up to six hours for a 10 minute treatment every day for up to six weeks. Travelling such distances causes a financial burden and increases stress and fatigue during what is an already an emotionally difficult time.

"This decision will have a massive impact on them - this treatment is potentially live-saving or life-extending."

See: Derry Cancer Unit 'In The Balance'

(BMcC/GK)

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