Fury at Michael McGimpsey’s decision led to a hastily-organised protest at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry yesterday afternoon.
Cancer patients currently receiving treatment in Belfast were among 100 people gathered |outside the hospital holding posters condemning the health minister.
Car, lorry and van drivers tooted their horns in support, with many shouting words of encouragement as they drove past.
Cancer survivor Karen Mullan of the Pink Ladies lobby group said she believed the people of the north west had been “shafted and left to die” by the Health Minister. Her colleague Mary Doherty said yesterday’s protest was just the start of the fight against the decision.
The Western Health Trust warned that the shelved radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital was “absolutely essential” for the treatment of patients |in Northern Ireland going into the future. Trust chairman Gerard McGuckian said that management and staff were deeply disappointed at Mr McGimpsey’s shock announcement that his department will not fund the cross-border centre.
Mr McGuckian said: “The reason that the radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital is so important is that the Cancer Centre, Belfast has stated that it will reach maximum capacity by late 2015.
“This, combined with the cross-border aspect of the proposed scheme, makes the Altnagelvin radiotherapy unit the only |logical solution to ensure the sustainable delivery of cancer services with accessibility to all patients.”
Noelle Duddy from the NW Cancer Care said she wept when she heard the news.
She said: “I cried when I realised what he was saying, I just could not believe what I was hearing.
“I can only hope now that whoever replaces him after the election will overturn this decision because this unit simply must go ahead, there is no plan B.”