Written Answers - Hospital Services.

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 599 No. 6

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  87.  Mr. Noonan  Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   her views on a media report (details supplied) which claimed that she may recommend that a number of provincial hospital satellite centres be established for the provision of radiotherapy, as part of a major reorganisation of services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9467/05]

[1817]

  95.  Mr. Wall  Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   when she will be making an announcement regarding the provision of appropriate transport arrangements for cancer patients requiring radiotherapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9433/05]

  119.  Mr. P. Breen  Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the recommendations of the radiotherapy report which have been implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9516/05]

  137.  Mr. O’Shea  Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the provision she has made to provide radiotherapy for terminally ill cancer patients in the last weeks of life who cannot travel and who need it for relief from pain, in view of the fact that these patients make up half of all patients needing radiotherapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9554/05]

  143.  Mr. Gormley  Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   her plans to provide access to radiotherapy services for persons in the north west, in particular in Inishowen, County Donegal. [9563/05]

  144.  Mr. Gormley  Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   her plans to provide access to palliative radiotherapy services for persons in the north west, in particular in Inishowen. [9564/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney): Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I propose to take Questions Nos. 87, 95, 119, 137, 143 and 144 together.

The Government’s policy on radiation oncology is based on the report on the development of radiation oncology services in Ireland. The report was prepared by a multi-disciplinary group of experts in radiation oncology, medical oncology, public health and palliative care, including representatives of bodies such as the Irish College of General Practitioners, the Irish Cancer Society and Aid Cancer Treatment. The report has had significant international endorsement from such bodies as the US National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

The Government is determined to ensure access by cancer patients throughout the country to high quality radiation oncology in line with best international standard. Significant progress is being made in implementing the report’s recommendations. The short term developments in Cork and Galway will significantly improve access by cancer patients to radiotherapy treatment, including for palliative purposes.

Two additional linear accelerators are being provided at the supra-regional centre at Cork University Hospital, CUH, at a capital cost of over €4 million. The first of these linear accelerators has been installed and the second is expected to be commissioned by the autumn. Last year, approval issued for the appointment of 29 staff for this unit and additional ongoing revenue funding of €3 million to cater for this expansion. [1818]Two additional consultant radiation oncologists will be appointed at CUH with sessional commitments to the south eastern and the mid western areas. CUH is also in the process of recruiting other key posts required for the commissioning of the new linear accelerators.

The supra-regional centre at University College Hospital Galway commenced treatments for radiotherapy last week. Last year, approval issued for the appointment of 102 staff for this unit, together with ongoing revenue funding of €12 million to cater for this expansion. Approval issued for the appointment of an additional consultant medical oncologist and three consultant radiation oncologists, two of whom have significant sessional commitments to the north-western and the mid-western areas. Key staffing is in place. The first consultant radiation oncologist has already started and the second is due to take up post on 29 March.

The report recommends that there should be two radiotherapy treatment centres located in the eastern region, one serving the southern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas and one serving the northern part of the region and
adjacent catchment areas. The international panel established to advise on the optimum locations for radiation oncology services in the eastern region submitted its advice to me on 28 January last. I intend to reach an early decision in relation to this matter. While the immediate priority is to provide 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.

The Health Services Executive has significant dedicated transport arrangements in place for radiotherapy patients. The remit of the national radiation oncology coordinating group encompasses recommending measures to facilitate improved access to existing and planned services, including transport and accommodation. The group comprises clinical, technical, managerial, academic and nursing expertise from different geographic regions. The group will also advise on quality assurance protocols and guidelines for the referral of public patients to private facilities.


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