Cancer centre that will end gruelling trips for sufferers
A new satellite radiotherapy unit is on its way to the north west, cutting out long and tiring trips to Belfast for cancer sufferers from the region.
Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey announced yesterday that a new satellite radiotherapy centre will be established at Altnagelvin Hospital just months after he confirmed that vital cancer services would be retained in the city after fears they could be axed.
The new centre is expected to be in place by 2015 and will serve the wider north west area, benefiting those who would otherwise have to travel 90 minutes or more for treatment.
The unit may also operate on a cross-border basis, providing a lifeline for Donegal cancer patients who often have to travel to Dublin.
Some women in the county even resorted to mastectomies rather than making the gruelling trip.
The Belfast Telegraph recently ran a successful campaign to keep histopathology and cytopathology services in Derry following a review which suggested they should be centralised in Belfast despite the opening of a new multi-million pound lab.
Speaking during an Assembly debate on cancer services in the Foyle area, the Minister said that cases of the disease are projected to rise.
"It is possible that we could see an overall increase in cancer levels of over 50% with potentially 13,000 new cancers diagnosed each year by 2025," he said.
"An initial assessment of projected cancer incidence and demographics suggests that a combination of radiotherapy services in Belfast and Altnagelvin would best meet the needs of the population of Northern Ireland beyond 2015.
"This is to ensure that 90% of the population is within one hour of radiotherapy," he said.
The Minister said he has discussed this issue with a range of public representatives and community groups from the north west and recognised the potential for cross border co-operation in the development of this resource.
"Taking all these issues into account and after careful consideration of my department's assessment of the best location for additional radiotherapy provision, I am pleased to announce that a new satellite radiotherapy centre will be established in Altnagelvin.
"I have now instructed the health boards and the Western Trust to develop a business case for this development as a matter of urgency."
SDLP Foyle Assembly Member Mary Bradley has welcomed the announcement, saying it "makes sense".
The move has also been backed by Sinn Fein's Billy Page, who is a long-time campaigner for improved cancer services at Altnagelvin.