The North’s Health Minister has paid a personal tribute to a Derry cancer patient who has died, just weeks after convincing him to locate a radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.
Edwin Poots said meeting Pearse Deery at Altnagelvin helped convince him to reverse his predecessor Michael McGimpsey’s earlier decision not to base a satelitte treatment unit in Derry.
Mr Deery, a father of three, passed away at Altnagelvin on Thursday. His funeral took place at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Steelstown on Sunday.
Last night, Mr. Poots paid tribute to Mr Deery. “I had the pleasure of meeting Pearse when I visited Altnagelvin recently and I listened as he shared his concerns about cancer services in Londonderry,” he told the ‘Journal’. What he said had a profound impact on me and his heartfelt words helped inform my decision to proceed with the radiotherapy unit.
“I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Pearse’s family during what is undoubtedly an extremely difficult time for them.”
Local politicians were among the first to pay tribute to Mr. Deery.
The SDLP’s health spokesperson, Mark H Durkan - who was at school with Mr Deery - said future generations would benefit from the “impact Pearse had on the minister.”
“It will have been some consolation to him and his family, small as it is, that he played a vital role in convincing the Minister to locate the radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin,” he added.
“Regrettably, it is too late for him but future generations will feel the benefit of not having to travel to Belfast for treatment.”
This is a view shared by Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson who said the entire city would remember Mr Deery with fondness and gratitude.
“The impact he made on Minister Edwin Poots cannot be overstated,” she said. “People in Derry, Donegal and further afield will always have good reason to remember him and the influence he had on that decision.”
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny says the new unit at Altnagelvin will be a symbol of what can be achieved by cross-border co-operation.
Mr Kenny said the satelitte centre was a “shining example” of how money could be saved by cross-border co-operation. The Irish government is contributing £19 million towards the project.
“The unit at Altnagelvin is a shared facility which will reduce costs in both governments by providing a single radiotherapy treatment unit for people in both Derry and Donegal,” he said.
Last month, Edwin Poots confirmed that he was making available the necessary funding to both build and run the service which will open in 2016. There had been fears that, due to financial constraints, the centre would be a lot smaller than what was originally planned. However, the minister’s announcement confirmed that the original business case, known as OBC1, is the plan which will be implemented.