New radiotherapy unit to be shelved
The opening of a new radiotherapy unit in Derry is set to be shelved after the health minister said he did not have the money to fund staff training.
Michael McGimpsey, who has warned the Health Service is on the verge of bankruptcy due to budget cutbacks, told the Assembly he could not commit to providing the cancer specialists needed to run the planned facility at Altnagelvin hospital.
Outlining his department's spending priorities for new capital projects over the next four years, the minister also announced he was establishing a major review to chart the way forward for health and social care services in the future.
He said the Altnagelvin project, which was due to open in five years, was also dependent on financial commitments from the government in the Republic of Ireland being realised.
But he did give the go ahead for other major builds, including a new maternity hospital at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
"I remain committed to the future development of the Altnagelvin radiotherapy unit," he said. "However, the present budget proposal seriously undermines the ability to deliver this because of the absence of revenue funding and the reduction in capital resource available to my department."
The minister insisted the announcement represented a deferral, not a mothballing of the project.
He said he remained committed to ensuring people with cancer in Northern Ireland had access to services and said two new radiotherapy machines would be introduced in the Belfast City Hospital in the next two years to cope with demand.
"This will help provide the capacity that is needed in the short to medium-term while the longer-term service issues are being resolved," he said.
He said the green light would be given to the construction of the following schemes: the next phase of the Ulster Hospital redevelopment which will replace the current Ward Block; the new regional Maternity Hospital at the Royal; the new enhanced local hospital at Omagh; a new acute psychiatric facility at the Belfast City Hospital; a new A&E department and ward accommodation at the Antrim Hospital; new operating theatres at Craigavon Hospital; new health and care centres in Ballymena and Banbridge.