Health chief vows to deliver centre

A Derry health chief has vowed to ensure the delivery of the mothballed plans for Derry’s cancer unit.

Chairman of the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Gerard Guckian said that while he was disappointed at Health Minister Michael McGimpsey’s decision to postpone the building of the centre every effort would be made to make the shelved proposals a reality as soon as possible.

“I would wish to assure the public that the Western Trust will work tirelessly with our healthcare colleagues north and south of the border to secure the delivery of this scheme,” he said.

Mr Guckian highlighted the fact that the Altnagelvin centre would not only benefit patients in Derry and the wider North West including Donegal and farther afield.

“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 equal accessibility to all patients.”

Jim Wells, DUP chairman of Mr McGimpsey’s Assembly scrutiny committee, heavily criticised the timing of the minister’s announcement. He also asked why the build could not proceed when the main revenue costs would not have to be paid until after construction.

“To announce such a major change in capital funding 36 hours before this building (Parliament Buildings, Stormont) closes for the election I think is unacceptable.

“Equally unacceptable, he knows the decision to mothball the Altnagelvin cancer facility will cause enormous uproar west of the Bann.”

He urged him to reconsider the decision. Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein deputy chair of the Health committee, said the minister should be ashamed and accused him of playing politics with the issue.