The Pink Ladies pressure group have expressed concerns that the opening of the 27 bed Radiotherapy Treatment Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital has been delayed until 2016.
The news emerged following the first in a series of public consultation meetings on the new unit, which was held at Da Vinci’s Hotel on Wednesday.
The consultations were warmly welcomed by both the Co-operating for Cancer Care NorthWest (CCCNW) and the Pink Ladies lobbying groups. However the Pink Ladies indicated that they are to contact the Health Minister in order to clarify the opening date which was pushed back from early 2015 to mid 2016. Karen Mullan co-chair of The Pink Ladies said: “We would be concerned that the opening date for the centre has been pushed back to 2016. We plan to contact the Health Minister, Edwin Poots, on the opening date and ensure there are no further delays. Initially we were told it would open in early 2015 now that’s been put back by 18 months, which is longer than was anticipated.”
Una Cardin, Western Trust Radiotherapy Unit Manager said: “The public focus group will give those who have been affected by cancer either in the past or currently, a chance to shape how this facility serves the community. Those who have been treated in other hospitals are invited along to share their experiences also and suggest how the centre could best meet their needs.
“We’ve worked hard on the designs but we still have to ask ‘do changes need to be made?’ This exercise is about listening to what people say and then effecting any changes which they identify.”
Noelle Duddy of CCCNW said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Trust are taking our views on board. We started campaigning all those years ago and didn’t know where it would take us but by working together with the Trust look how far we’ve come. It is great that they are taking the points of view of those who have already undertaken this journey onboard.
“This is a great way to tailor the service to the best needs of those being treated. Simple things like the ambience of the centre will make a huge difference to those undergoing treatment.”
The meeting discussed the clinical pathways from which patients would be referred to the centre. CCCNW said they were delighted that the border would not influence referrals, which would be based totally on clincial need.
However the Derry based Pink Ladies support group expressed a concern that Donegal patients will not only travel to Derry for radiotherapy treatment.
Ms. Mullan said: “Donegal patients will still have to travel to Galway or Dublin for their oncology consultations and for any chemotherapy treaments. Though we are glad to have the radiotherapy service based in the North West the patient pathway reinforces how we should continue to work together to secure a full cancer treatment service in the North West. The centre and consultations are welcome, great in fact. The hope now is to offer full cancer treatments in the short to medium term. It is the next thing to work toward.
The meeting was attended by Health Trust officials and around ten members of the public.
Asked if they had sufficiently notified members of the public about the consultation in advance, a spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “As soon as was possible after the dates, times and locations for the full programme of events were finalised they were issued to the local media.
“The Trust also uses other channels and direct stakeholder engagement, which includes service users, to promote such consultation events. It is important to note that this is the first of many future events on the Radiotherapy Unit.
The next is taking place at the Waterfoot Hotel on Thursday March 14 at 7pm.” In fact ten focus groups are scheduled, venues and dates are available on the Western Trust website at www.westerntrust.hscni.net