Press Release

Statement by An Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. on Cancer Services in Donegal

Speaking in Donegal today, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney TD said ” everyone in this country, regardless of where they live, should have access to the best possible health services”.

“This is especially so for cancer services. The most important thing for patients is getting the best treatment. Outcomes for patients is what drives our policy and investment in cancer care. I am determined that everyone diagnosed with cancer will get top quality treatment, as near to their home as possible.”

“The best practice in cancer care, both in this country and abroad, is very clear in setting out how to organise cancer services for best outcomes.”

“To keep up to date and to maintain the necessary skills, doctors and other professionals must treat a minimum number of new cancer cases each year. Staff must work in teams comprising specialists from many disciplines – surgeons, physicians, radiologists, pathologists, nurses and therapists.”

“For breast cancer services, our national policy says that a hospital team will serve a population of approximately 300,000 people. In a population of this size each year between 100 and 150 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed.”

“If the number of new cases is less than 100 in the catchment area of a hospital, then that hospital must work with other hospitals as part of a network. The doctors and other professionals in the hospitals will then come together and work as a team, with clear clinical leadership in relation to care standards and overall management.”

“Most people will attend their local hospital for treatment, and may attend the lead hospital for assessment and if they have more complicated care needs.”

“Hospitals and community based professionals, like GPs, pharmacists and nurses must also work closely with the hospital team to ensure good follow up care.”

“In the last year, I have spoken to representatives of all of those who are interested in cancer services in Donegal. These include the TDs of the area, doctors, therapists, managers, academics, and advocacy groups.”

“We certainly agree that cancer patients in Donegal should benefit from top quality cancer care as much as patients in any other part of the country. We are still discussing how to organise services to achieve that. For example, there is the issue about which hospital or hospitals Letterkenny will be working with so as to deliver the best service to Donegal patients.”

“I believe the solution is to be open and imaginative about the available options in seeking the best cancer care services. For instance, I believe that co-operation with our colleagues in Northern Ireland offers great prospects, with patients and services on both sides of the border gaining.”

“The way forward is for us to work together in both jurisdictions to plan services and infrastructure to meet the needs of the overall population. This is especially relevant for the North West of the island of Ireland.”

“I have urged HSE management to complete discussions in relation to the future organisation of breast care services for the people of Donegal by the end of June.”

“The commencement of the Breastcheck screening programme in the western region next year will make a real difference to the health of women in Donegal.”

“Since 1997, more than €47 million has been allocated to the North Western Area of the Health Service Executive for the development of cancer services. Today I had the pleasure of opening the recently completed 11 bed oncology ward at Letterkenny General Hospital and I visited the Radiology Department, with its brand new MRI scanner.”

“In the coming years, almost €50 million will be invested in health facilities in Donegal, with almost €28 million being spent on additional beds and a new A&E department at the Hospital.”

“This Government has quadrupled the budget of Letterkenny General Hospital since 1997, enabling the appointment of more than 550 additional staff. This is a clear expression of our confidence in the health services in Donegal and we will spend more to make the services even better in the coming years.”