Thursday, 15 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
93. Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding the allocation of £500,000 announced in December 2000 in relation to breast cancer treatment services in Portlaoise General Hospital; the contacts between his Department and the Midland Health Board which have taken place since that time in relation to this facility; the matters to be dealt with by way of this allocation; the other facilities, including capital facilities, operational activities and staffing levels which are required to be dealt with in respect of this service at Portlaoise General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28374/01]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): At the request of the previous Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Cowen, the national cancer forum established a sub-group to examine the provision of services for women with symptomatic breast disease. The sub-group was tasked with assessing the impact on the existing diagnostic services for benign and malignant breast disease in the light of the national breast cancer screening programme; the increase in the target population; the increased awareness of the importance of breast screening; and the current and evolving technologies in the area of breast screening.
The sub-group was also asked to make recommendations to the Minister on the diagnostic services for symptomatic breast disease necessary to meet projected increased needs; the need to develop associated services in radiotherapy, medical oncology, counselling and other support services; the resources required to develop these services; and the principles that should underlie the organisation and delivery of services for breast disease.
As part of the work of the sub-group, the regional directors of cancer services were asked for information concerning their current service and their views were sought on how the service should be developed in their region. In addition, members of the sub-group visited each region. The consensus view regarding best practice in the management of breast disease was presented to regional representatives and their views on how this could be achieved in their region were sought.
The sub-group considered that although services should be delivered as close to the patient's home as is feasible, the overriding priority should be to provide the best, safest and most effective treatment for women and, in so doing, provide the best opportunity for long-term survival to those who are found to have breast cancer.
When I received the report of the sub-group, I established an advisory group under the chairmanship of Professor Niall O'Higgins to assist the health boards in formulating their plans for the development of services for symptomatic breast disease. This group met Midland Health Board officials and clinicians following which the board considered the development of specialist breast disease services in its area.
The Midland Health Board was allocated a sum of £500,000 this year for the development of symptomatic breast disease services in line with the recommendations of the report of the sub-group. The board has formulated detailed proposals for the development of services in its functional area, including services at Portlaoise General Hospital. These proposals have been the subject of consultations between my Department and the board, and my Department will be responding to the board shortly.
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