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Cancer groups vow to continue fighting for radiotherapy unit

By Donna Deeney

There has been a rallying call from cancer lobby groups in Londonderry for people to keep fighting for a radiotherapy unit to be built in the north west.

The groups say people must continue campaigning in spite of assurances from the First and Deputy First Minister that funding for the unit will be found.

Carita Kerr from the Calendar Girls group has also called on the people of Belfast to join the campaign because a failure to provide a centre at Altnagelvin will also have consequences for treatment there.

Just two days before the Assembly closed for the elections, Michael McGimpsey said he had shelved plans for the radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin.

This announcement was quickly followed by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson promising that funding for the unit would be found and that building work would begin as scheduled.

Mrs Kerr said it is vital that people do not become complacent about the unit and continue to keep pressure on politicians to deliver the north west facilities, which would mean they could get treated for cancer without having to endure the added anxiety of travelling to Belfast.

She added: “While this unit is so important for the people of Derry, it is just as important for the people of Belfast because the City Hospital, which currently treats everyone from Northern Ireland, will have reached capacity in 2015.

“This will mean that there will be delays in starting treatments, not just for the people from the north west but also from every other part of the country as well.

“It is important that this does not become political so that politicians from whatever party cannot say ‘vote for us and we will get the cancer unit'.”

Karen Mullan from the Pink Ladies group, who addressed a specially convened meeting of Derry City Council yesterday, added: “In May 2008, Michael McGimpsey announced that Derry was going to get a radiotherapy unit and we all know now how that ended, so in spite of what Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson have both said, it is so vital that people continue to fight for this unit.

“It is after all election time, but we will not just assume that because a politician says something then that is what will happen.

“What we do know is that we will not stop in our fight for a unit in Altnagelvin and on the day after the election we will go to Stormont and present a petition demanding a unit to the new health minister.

“It will be down to the people to ensure that this unit gets built, which is why we need people to continue to protest with us until it becomes a reality.”

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