Disappointment but ‘no surprise’ in Donegal

Michael McGimpsey’s decision to shelve a new radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital has been greeted with shock and disappointment in Co. Donegal.

The planned satellite radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin has a very distinct cross-border dimension with populations on both sides of the border co-dependent so as to ensure that critical mass is achieved to safely provide the service.

Reacting to the news, Noelle Duddy, of Co-Operating for Cancer Care North West (CCCNW), said: “We are very disappointed. We were hoping and expecting that, if there was going to be an announcement from Mr McGimpsey, it would have been an announcement that it was going ahead.

“However, CCCNW has always understood that he might not make the announcement this side of the Assembly elections.

“We remain optimistic that the new Assembly and the new Minister for Health will sign off on the radiotherapy unit as soon as they are in post.”

She added: “Only this week, I received an e-mail from Minister of State, Dinny McGinley, who met with Health Minister Dr. James Reilly on our behalf regarding his continued support for the unit. He has pledged his continued support and will raise the issue when he meets with Mr McGimpsey.”

Betty Holmes, of Donegal Action for Cancer Care and an independent candidate in the last general election, said the postponement came as “absolutely no surprise.”

She added: “We, at DACC, have been saying for some time that it wasn’t going to happen - the money’s not there. The business plan that was to have been signed off on two years ago was never signed off. Michael McGimpsey has been saying for a long time that they don’t have the money to do it. He couldn’t have been any clearer.

“The way forward is to keep the issues on the table. While we at DACC would have welcomed a unit in Derry, as it would have been nearer to Donegal than Dublin or Galway, we have always wanted full cancer care services at Letterkenny General Hospital. Our view is that cancer patients deserve to be treated as close to their homes as possible.

“We were told by a very senior person in 2008 that the only real reason that Letterkenny General Hospital wasn’t getting a radiotherapy unit was lack of political will.

“We see the shelving of the plans for Derry as an opportunity to revisit the whole issue of cancer care provision in Letterkenny.”