Tuesday, 5 October 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
363. Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the proposals she has regarding the concerns of Cancer Care Alliance in the matter of providing a full and properly resourced cancer service in the south east (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23223/04]
Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney): The Government is committed to making the full range of cancer services available and accessible to cancer patients throughout Ireland. To this end, we will provide considerable investment in radiation oncology facilities in the coming years.
Since 1997, under the implementation of the national cancer strategy, there has been a cumulative investment of almost €42 million in cancer services in the South Eastern Health Board. An additional €1.16 million was provided in 2004 to address service pressures in oncology-haematology, including oncology drug treatments. Ten additional consultants have been appointed for cancer services in the South Eastern Health Board since 1997. The board currently has three consultant medical oncologists, the largest complement of consultant medical oncologists in any health board area outside of the eastern region.
At a national level, approval was recently granted for over 130 additional staff and full-year revenue funding of €15 million to open the new radiation oncology department in University College Hospital Galway and to expand capacity at Cork University Hospital. There are currently eight linear accelerators nationally and these developments will provide an additional five. Approval has issued for the appointment of an additional five consultant radiation oncologists and recruitment is under way. One of these new consultants will be based at Cork University Hospital and will have significant sessional commitments to Waterford Regional Hospital. This will result in a significant increase in the numbers of patients receiving radiation oncology in the short term.
As recommended in the report, the national radiation oncology co-ordinating group, NROCG, has been established. The group comprises clinical, technical, managerial, academic and nursing expertise from different geographic regions. The group’s remit encompasses recommending measures to facilitate improved access to existing and planned services, including transport and accommodation. The group is expected to develop proposals in these important areas. The group will also advise on quality assurance protocols and guidelines for the referral of public patients to private facilities.
The NROCG is currently developing a national telesynergy® network for radiation oncology services. The South Eastern Health Board has advised the Department that a telesynergy® system should be installed in Waterford Regional Hospital. Arrangements are now being made to install this technology at the hospital which will enable the hospital to develop improved linkages with Cork University Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin and reduce patient and consultant travel time.
The Government in its decision last year on radiotherapy services remained open to the provision of a satellite radiation oncology unit in Waterford. We are determined to deliver enhanced services for the whole population as soon as possible. There is unanimity about the urgent need for significantly enhanced services in the major population centres of Dublin, Cork and Galway. I will keep the question of networked satellite locations under active review.
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