Work underway at new centre

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Construction work on Northern Ireland’s first health and wellbeing campus at Altnagelvin Hospital is well underway.

Taking part in an official ceremony on Tuesday recognising progress, Gerard Guckian, Chairman of the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust), said: “I’m delighted to be here today to mark the progress that has been made on this hugely important development in such a short space of time.

“This campus really is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. It will cater for people living with cancer and other long term conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and will offer a range of services and support for patients, families and carers.

“In addition to information facilities, there will be prostheses and wig-fitting services, complementary therapies, gentle exercise classes, counselling sessions and art therapy.

“We want to ensure people with long term conditions get all the support they need.”

The campus will incorporate a new purpose-built Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centre and long term conditions unit in Agnes Jones House, which is being refurbished. The two buildings will be linked by a walkway and garden.

Macmillan Cancer Support is investing over £1.5 million in the project, which will extend across the Western Health and Social Care Trust area, establishing Macmillan outreach points in the entrance to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex and the new Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin. The Western Trust is contributing a further £450,000 to the development.

The new Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin opens this Autumn and the campus will be fully operational at the start of 2017.

Heather Monteverde, Head of Macmillan Services in Northern Ireland, said: “We’re here for the official sod cutting but, as you can see, the steel frame is already up and the building is really taking shape.

“There will be a Macmillan Information Centre in the entrance to the new Radiotherapy Unit but this new, purpose-built Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centre will be the hub of our support services across the Western Trust area.

“We have already recruited and trained volunteers to man our Macmillan information point in Enniskillen at the South West Acute Hospital. So, it really is all go.”

The WHSCT has appointed the Lisburn-based contractor, TAL Ltd, to construct the new health and wellbeing campus.

Damien Hughes, TAL’s Contracts Director, said: “We have delivered vital care facilities throughout Northern Ireland, providing residential and nursing care accommodation. We work closely with the client team on each project to understand their requirements and deliver safe and comfortable facilities to enhance the care and support offered to patients, carers and families living with challenging and long term conditions.”

Site Manager Andy Greer added: “Every single member of our staff has been affected by cancer - whether that’s been a friend, grandparent, mother, father, sibling, young nephew or niece, many of whom benefitted from Macmillan’s services. Living with cancer is a struggle for everyone involved and having a local facility makes such a difference financially, emotionally and physically, to what are already difficult circumstances to deal with.

“We are delighted to be working with Macmillan and the Western Health Trust on this much-needed facility in the North West.”

Since winning the contract, TAL has already signed up to participate in Macmillan’s Movember campaign, to raise awareness of men’s health issues, particularly cancers affecting men.