An Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been thanked for his government’s commitment to the new cancer treatment centre at Altnagelvin during a visit to Derry.
Mr Kenny visited the Derry hospital on Saturday, speaking with local politicians and clinical staff as well as patients from Derry and Tyrone.
Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) chairman Gerard Guckian told Mr Kenny - who also attended the opening of the Peace Bridge on during his visit to Derry - the cancer centre was “another major positive development for this region.”
Mr Kenny’s government has pledged around 19m euro towards the capital costs of the project - and remained committed to the centre when it was controversially shelved by former northern health minister Michael McGimpsey.
“We are absolutely delighted that you have taken time on what is a busy day marking a brighter future for Derry to visit Altnagelvin where we are looking forward to another major positive development for this region,” Mr Guckian told An Taoiseach.
“In what are difficult financial economic times it is to your credit that your Government has given a commitment to provide funding for this project without which it would not have happened.”
Dr Feargal McNicholl, consultant haematologist, based in Altnagelvin’s Sperrin Unit, explained to Mr Kenny why the Derry unit is vital to Ireland’s north west region.
“We are serving a large population in the west where we have patients requiring radiotherapy treatment for lymphoma, myeloma and other cancers. This treatment might involve five minutes of radiotherapy every day for 18 days or more.
“The trip to Belfast for radiotherapy amounts to a round trip of more than four hours every day for these patients.
“They are often in pain, are worried about the financial cost of travel and want to avoid putting this extra stress on other family members who are helping.
“The travelling becomes a major issue and sometimes we have patients who decline beneficial radiotherapy treatment because of the travelling that would be involved. Having radiotherapy treatment closer, enabling the patient to travel home soon after will make a huge difference.”
Construction of the £56m satellite cross border centre is expected to be completed by 2015 and the unit itself to be operating fully by mid-2016.