Campaign for cancer centre

Today marks the launch of a ‘Journal’ campaign to support calls for the construction of Derry’s satellite radiotherapy centre.

The planned cancer centre is vital to meet health care needs of the North West on both side of the border. Not only is the proposed facility crucial to this region but it will also have enormous implications for cancer patients across the North as Belfast’s regional cancer centre is on track to reach capacity by 2016 - the anticipated completion date of the Derry centre.

There was shock and anger across the North West when it was announced recently that the plans were at risk of being scrapped because finance to run the centre would not be available in the budget.

If the Department of Health can afford to fork out £11.5m in bonuses of ‘clinical excellence awards’ to consultants annually, surely money can be found in the system to meet the estimated £7.5m running costs of the proposed centre to be funded here.

Local politicians across all parties have made a united appeal for the construction of the centre to proceed, highlighting that cancer does not recognise political or physical borders.

Yesterday the North’s health watchdog threw its weight behind the campaign.

Speaking after a meeting of Stormont’s Health Committee, Foyle SDLP MLA Pól Callaghan, said: “I was delighted to receive cross party support from the committee for the efforts to ensure that the radiotherapy centre for Altnagelvin Hospital gets the revenue money to proceed.” Mr Callaghan added that the committee also recognised that if the budget fails to ensure running costs for the facility then the huge contribution to its construction from the Irish Government - money which has been ringfenced - would be jeopardised.