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New £50m cross-border cancer centre will be open by autumn

By Donna Deeney

Published 19/01/2016

The new radiotherapy unit currently being built at Altnagelvin Hospital. Picture by Martin McKeown
The new radiotherapy unit currently being built at Altnagelvin Hospital. Picture by Martin McKeown

A new radiotherapy centre for cancer patients on both sides of the border is on course to open later this year — and has already created 215 jobs.

Funding for the radiotherapy unit nearing completion in the grounds of Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry will be shared between Stormont and the Irish Government on a pro rata basis.

The centre is scheduled to open on time and within budget.

From this autumn, almost 90% of people diagnosed with cancer from across the Western Trust area and Donegal will be treated at the £50m unit.

Alan Moore, the Western Trust’s director of strategic capital development, described it as a “hospital within a hospital”.

Both the running and construction costs for the huge centre will be shared between the two governments.

Mr Moore said: “The building has been designed with the holistic needs of the patients at its centre.

“The staff have all been recruited and in total 215 new positions have been created although some, like the administrative staff, will not take up their positions until later this year.

“We advertised far and wide and have secured staff from all over the island of Ireland, the UK, Europe — in fact, right across the globe.

“This centre will be one of four in Ireland, the others being Belfast, Galway and Dublin.

“This will be one of the most modern facilities in the whole of Europe and will certainly not be a second centre to Belfast or anywhere.

“It will be opened this year — that is a definite — and it will come in on budget. Anything else just was not an option.

“So while at this stage we can’t be more specific about the actual date that we will become operational, it will be autumn.” More than 500,000 patients will access their radiotherapy at Altnagelvin.

For people living the Western Trust area, it will mean they no longer have to face an arduous journey of at least 90 minutes each way to Belfast.

People living in Donegal will be spared an even longer journey of around four hours travelling to either Galway or Dublin for their treatment.

However, while the centre in Derry will have the most modern and up-to-date equipment installed later this year, there will still be 10% of people who have to travel to Belfast for their treatment.

Consultant oncologist Dr David Stewart said: “Unfortunately, people diagnosed with rarer forms of cancer and children will still have to go to Belfast for their chemotherapy and radiotherapy because of the very specialist nature of their conditions.

“For the vast majority of people, the long journeys they faced to get radiotherapy will soon be a thing of the past.”

He added: “Previously if a patient was considered too ill to make these long journeys either to Belfast or to Galway or Dublin they didn’t get radiotherapy, but that will not be the situation any more.”

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