In excess of 600 patients from both sides of the border have now been treated at Derry’s state-of-art North West Cancer Centre, its manager has confirmed.
Bridget Tourish said that the international team at the centre were delighted with the positive feedback they have received from patients, while also confirming that the north west region had the “highest incidence of cancer” in Ireland.
Ms. Tourish was speaking as she presented an overview of progress since the centre opened in November 2016 before Derry & Strabane Council’s Health and Community Committee last week.
Councillors heard that the centre delivers radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment, surgery, specialist palliative care and a range of other services for a catchment population of 500,000 people from the west, northern and Donegal regions.
Ms. Tourish said the ultimate aim of the centre had been to provide local access to cancer services and to cut travel times for patients from the North West area.
She added that prior to the local facility opening, all patients from the North had to travel to Belfast, while Donegal patients had to travel to Galway or Dublin for treatment, whereas now the North West Cancer Centre can cater for 90 per cent of cancer diagnosis.
“This has made a significant difference to their lives,” she said. “I am very pleased to say we have treated over 600 patients across a range of tumour sites.”
The centre at Altnagelvin Hospital - which has 10 oncologists on site - has to date treated 260 breast cancer patients, and has a 100 per cent compliance with the government target that breast cancer patients are seen within 14 days.
The 31 days target for other cancers, between referral and being seen, is also sitting at 100 per cent, while 92 per cent of patients start treatment within a 62 day target.
The figures, Ms. Tourish confirmed are the best in the region.
“Everybody’s aim is to get the patient diagnosis and treatment within the fastest possible timescale,” she said, adding that the workforce were very proud of their record on meeting targets.
“In terms of patient feedback from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; in terms of quality of life and having access to a local service, it’s been immense. The feedback is very positive,” she maintained.
DUP Alderman, Hilary McClintock, said she had seen the “fantastic facilities” at the centre first hand adding that the centre was “such a benefit to our whole North West area.”
Sinn Fein Colr Christopher Jackson said the facilities were “state-of-the-art”. “We are very lucky to have them on our doorstep. Anyone I know who came out those doors came out with glowing praise. I congratulate everyone for the fantastic work that is going on.”
The North West Cancer Centre treats people with breast, lung, head and neck, skin, GI upper and lower, prostate, kidney and bladder cancers as well as blood malignancies.
The team works closely with MacMillan and the local centre’s staff considered themselves lucky to have an onsite MacMillan patient support hub.