Press Release

Micheál Martin TD Minister for Health publishes the Report on the Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland

Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children today published the Report on the Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland. The Government has accepted the recommendations of this Report. The Government agrees that a major programme is now required to rapidly develop clinical radiation oncology treatment services to modern standards.

Commenting Minister Martin said “I established the Expert Group to ensure that we effectively plan the current and future development of this element of cancer care. The development of radiation oncology services on the lines recommended in this Report is the single most important priority in cancer services in the acute setting. The Report is a most authoritative analysis of radiation oncology and provides a detailed plan for the future development of radiation oncology services nationally”.

“The Government has agreed that the first phase of such a new programme should be the development of a clinical network of large centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway. These centres will collectively have the staff and treatment infrastructure to permit a rapid increase in patient access to appropriate radiation therapy and will form the ´backbone´ of the future service expansion” Minister Martin said.

“I agree with the Report´s conclusion that this is the best model to rapidly provide a radiation oncology service. I believe that it best provides a structure and service model that will enable the rapid development of radiation oncology. I am now setting out a detailed programme of development and investment in these services:

“In the short term, I have approved the purchase of two additional linear accelerators for the Cork centre and the necessary capital investment amounting to €4m to commission this service as rapidly as possible. I also intend to prioritise the necessary resources to ensure that the radiation oncology centre in Galway is in a position to treat patients by Spring 2005. To date €12 million has been invested in the development of radiotherapy services in Galway. We currently have 8 linear accelerators nationally and these developments will provide an additional 5. This is a significant increase that will ensure when fully developed that an additional 2,000 patients are treated per year. Five additional Consultant Radiation Oncologists will be employed in the provision of these services”.

“In the medium term the development control plan for Cork University Hospital provides for the expansion of existing capacity from four to eight linear accelerators. I have now approved the appointment of a project team to prepare a brief for the rapid expansion of current capacity. I have also requested the Western Health Board to prepare a development control plan for UCHG to cater for expansion from three to six linear accelerators. I will also give early approval to the establishment of a project team to plan for this expansion”

“The Report recommends that there should be two treatment centres located in the Eastern region, one serving the southern part of the region and one serving the northern part of the region, which will also serve the adjacent catchment areas. The Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health and Children, Dr Jim Kiely will now make a detailed assessment of the optimal location for the radiotherapy centre, which will serve Dublin North and adjacent areas. In determining the preferred choice, Dr. Kiely will apply the guidelines established by the Group such as sufficient patient population, maximum patient access, availability of existing related clinical specialties and support services. In respect of Dublin South the Minister will be meeting with the Board of St Lukes to discuss the implications of the Report” Minister Martin said.

“I have outlined here this morning the first phase in the development of the backbone of radiation oncology services located at university teaching centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway, providing a truly national service. I have also outlined the requirements on these centres to continue to develop services for cancer patients in neighbouring counties. In addition, the Government has also decided that in the further development of services, consideration should be given to developing satellite centres at Waterford, Limerick and the North-West. Such consideration will take into account the international evaluation of satellite centres, the effectiveness of providing this model and the need to ensure quality standards of care” he added.

“Cancer is the most frequent cause of premature death in Ireland and approximately 7,400 cancer deaths occur annually.19,000 new cancer cases are recorded annually and one in three individuals develop cancer in their lifetime. As our population is aging it is expected that about 7,500 to 8,000 new cases of cancer will occur up to 2015. This Report sets out the guidelines and recommendations essential in the development of these services for cancer patients over the next number of years” Minister Martin said.

Minister´s Speech