Fight for cancer centre gathers momentum

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More than 100 people gathered in the Gasyard Centre on Monday night to call on the health minister to put funding in place to staff the radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin when it is built.

The meeting was organised by Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson and among those in attendance were members of cancer support groups from Derry, Donegal, and Tyrone.

Donegal Sinn Féin councillor Padráig MacLochlainn addressed the meeting together with Ms Anderson and the proceedings were chaired by former mayor of Derry, Councillor Paul Fleming.

SDLP councillors Mark H Durkan and Anne Donnelly also attended the event.

Ms Anderson said Michael McGimpsey’s remarks that there may not be enough money to staff the satellite radiotherapy centre when it is built caused considerable anger throughout the north west and called for the Minister’s resignation.

“I have been appalled by the way the minister has played politics with this issue. I think he should hang his head in shame,” she said.

The Foyle MLA questioned the minister’s figures and told the meeting that she believes there is money in the budget to staff and equip the facility. “I interrogated his budget and found that £11.5 million is spent on bonuses for consultants, of course the minister calls them clinical excellence awards. The cost for running the cancer unit is £7.5 million. We have identified where the fat is in the system and the money is there,” she said.

Colr. MacLochlainn said he believes the cancer centre will be funded but called for a united campaign by political parties and cancer support groups from both sides of the border.

“The word scandal does not do it justice. We have been utterly shafted as a region for too long.

“What we need to do now is get together, all the support groups and all the political parties and when we do we can deliver on this. I am 100 per cent certain about that,” he said.