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Campaigners pledge to block 'insensitive' merger of cancer wards at Co Tyrone hospital

By Victoria O'Hara

Campaigners have spoken of their fury at plans to merge palliative and rehabilitation cancer wards in a hospital in Tyrone - branding them "insensitive and ill-thought-out".

They have vowed to stop the plans proposed by the Western Health and Social Care Trust in the Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh.

It will mean terminally ill patients being treated in the same ward as patients who are recovering.

Kerry Irvine from Co Tyrone said she was strongly opposed to merging the two wards, adding that it "cannot happen".

Her husband Noel, who died seven months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011, spent his final days being cared for in the ward.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph the mum-of-two said: "I spent five days in ward five with Noel as he was dying. My children laid on the bed with him telling him how much they loved him and were going to miss him. I held him in my arms as he took his last breaths.

"This was as peaceful and dignified as this could be. The staff were excellent and I am furious at what they are trying to do. This cannot happen. How can you expect people to be able to say their final goodbyes with a ward shared with the ones that are going home to their loved ones?"

Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff said it was insensitive and ill-thought-out.

"By its nature, the palliative care ward provides end-of-life care and comfort to patients and their families at a very sensitive time," he said.

"Similarly, the rehabilitation ward provides care to patients facing very challenging circumstances.

"It is insensitive to propose merging these two wards as both sets of patients and their families have very different needs and requirements."

Further plans are expected to be discussed today at a media briefing.

A spokeswoman for the trust last night said it would not be commenting until then.

Thomas Buchanan MLA has already spoken to chief executive of the trust Elaine Way.

"I believe that this is totally unacceptable," he said. It comes after Northern Ireland's only dedicated respite centre for people with multiple sclerosis - at the Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle - was temporarily closed.

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