Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: Derry and Donegal together have critical mass to rival Dublin

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Derry and Donegal, counties divided for almost a century by partition, don’t have the ‘critical mass’ of population necessary to sustain specialist health services.

But together the North Western counties can justify top class services such as the Altnagelvin radiotherapy centre and other facilities, which rival anything on offer in Dublin, Belfast or Galway.

That was one of the key messages of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s address in the White Horse Hotel where he was guest of honour at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual president’s dinner on Friday.

The former Irish Health Minister identified the new radiotherapy unit, which opened late last year, as an exemplar of cross-border co-operation, a project that was made possible by a €19 million allocation in funding from the Dublin government.

“Donegal of course as a county on its own doesn’t have the critical mass of population to sustain specialist services such as that,” he said.

“And in fact, Derry and Tyrone don’t either. But if you take Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Donegal, there is a critical mass of population to deliver services that could only be delivered otherwise in Dublin, Belfast and even Galway,” continued the Taoiseach.

Mr. Varadkar, a doctor by profession, was also in the city the weekend before last to attend an Irish Cardiologist Society dinner in the Guildhall.

He said joint cardiac services were another classic of economies of scale being achieved through cross-border co-operation.

“In my former role as Minister for Health I have seen the benefits that working togethercan bring. Patients on the island of Ireland are benefiting from significant developments in cross-border health care activity over the last decade.

“Since May 2016 a cross-border cardiology service gives Donegal patients suffering from a STEMI heart attack direct access toemergency services in Altnagelvin Hospital where previously, they had to be transported to University Hospital Galway, and of course that is only if there was time. Last weekend, in a private capacity, I had the opportunity to be in this city to attend the Irish Cardiologist Society Dinner in the Guildhall and I had the opportunity to meet some of the people who are now delivering that service to people here in Derry and Donegal, and some of the first people who now have a joint post working part time in Derry and part time in Altnagelvin.”

See Pages 38 and 39