Press Release

Ministers Varadkar & Wells welcome progress on Cancer and Cardiology services for North-West patients

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar today visited Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry with Northern Ireland Health Minister Jim Wells to review the continued progress on the construction of the new Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Following a presentation on the project at the North South Ministerial Council meeting, Minister Varadkar said:

“Cross-border co-operation on health is one of the unsung successes of the Good Friday Agreement. People from Donegal will soon benefit from state of the art treatments for cancer and heart attack closer to home in Derry. At the same time, children from the North can have specialist heart surgery in Dublin and adults from south of the border can access Deep Brain Stimulation treatments in Belfast.  There is even more scope for new exciting areas of future co-operation. We are an island of just over six million people and it makes sense to pool our resources to provide better health care for all our citizens.”

Reviewing construction on the Radiotherapy Unit, which started in July 2014, Minister Varadkar said: “Altnagelvin Radiotherapy Unit will significantly improve access to radiation oncology services right across the West Ulster region, on both sides of the border. Among the beneficiaries are people living in Co. Donegal and surrounding areas. It will provide high quality services on their doorstep, on a par with those provided in the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre in Belfast. I want to thank Minister Wells for his personal commitment and I know that many people have worked long and hard to see the project to contract stage.”

The Irish Government has committed capital funding of €19 million towards construction costs and the HSE will also provide funding for the provision of services to patients from the Republic of Ireland. This funding demonstrates the ongoing commitment to cross border services and to north south radiotherapy services in particular.

The Minister looked forward to the opening of the unit next year and the commencement of services to patients. In all, the unit will treat about 1,500 patients per year, of which 385 will be from the Republic.

“I think that our health services present many areas of potential co-operation and I look forward to this continuing,” Minister Varadkar said.

Speaking about new radiotherapy service, Minister Wells said: “Cancer is a particular challenge to our health care system, however it is a global problem and not just in Northern Ireland. Access to effective treatments for the population of Northern Ireland is an important priority for me and for my Department.

“This project is a joint effort between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and will improve access to radiotherapy for patients from both jurisdictions. I support partnership working between our two countries; each has a valuable input to this project and it makes sense to work together towards improving the health of both our populations.

“When fully operational, the Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin will be able to treat approximately 1,150 Northern Ireland patients and 385 Republic of Ireland patients each year. The unit will be fully operational by autumn 2016.”