‘Money is there’ to build cancer unit, says Wilson

Altnagelvin Hospital. [INNL ALTNAGELVIN]

Altnagelvin Hospital. [INNL ALTNAGELVIN]

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The “money is there” to build a satellite cancer treatment centre in Derry, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has revealed.

The DUP MLA has confirmed that a post-election U-turn will be made on a controversial decision to shelve plans for the radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.

This move provoked an angry reaction by campaigners who claimed the decision could put lives at risk.

Last month, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey claimed Mr. Wilson had failed to respond to a business case for the new unit.

This suggestion was rejected by Mr. Wilson who claimed Mr. McGimpsey had raised questions about the project’s viability in March.

At the weekend, Mr. Wilson reasserted a pledge that the decision would be re-examined after the election.

“We have made a commitment that we will seek... through the Executive to press to have the unit in Altnagelvin,” he said.

“It’s needed. It’s affordable. The money’s there. Really, it was only politics that stopped it happening.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described the decision to postpone the construction of the radiotherapy unit as “sectarian”.

He said he could “guarantee” to reverse the move after the election.

“If you can be sure about anything in life you can be sure that this radiotherapy centre will be built,” he said. “I will ensure and guarantee that it is built.”

The Irish Republic’s Health Minister, Dr James Reilly, said his government was still committed to providing 19 million euros for capital costs and also ongoing funds.

He said the unit was an “ideal solution” for the radiotherapy needs of people from across the north-west of Ireland.

Local pressure groups also insist the new satelitte centre must go ahead.

Karen Mullan, of the Pink Ladies, said: “It is down to the people to ensure that this unit gets built, which is why we need people to continue to protest with us until it becomes a reality.”