18 April 2008

Centres of Excellence- Govt rapped for not listening to

people in north-west

THE inalienable rights of cancer patients in the north-west to have reasonable access to centres where special services and equipment are available has been underlined by the Council for the West.

In a hard-hitting statement, the Council has pointed to the absurdity of not locating one centre of excellence north of a line between Galway and Dublin, and has accused the Government of not listening to the needs of the people in the region.

Council member Bishop Christy Jones of Elphin said the country clearly needed a limited number of highly equipped hospitals with highly qualified cancer specialists.

"But," he added, "the title 'Centres of Excellence' does a grave injustice to the magnificent hospitals we have all over Ireland. We believe totally that Sligo should have a highly equipped hospital with highly qualified cancer specialists to serve the whole of the north-west from Inishowen Peninsula to Galway."

Bishop Jones said he had the greatest respect for the integrity and competence of Minister Mary Harney and Dr. Brendan Drumm and had total confidence that they would reform the Health Services. "However the north-west as far as all services and infrastructure are concerned is always ignored. Look at the National Development Plan and you will see that there is no dual-carriageway north-west of a line from Dublin to Galway. It would seem that we simply don’t register when people sit down in Dublin to plan services and infrastructure for this region.Cancer patients in the north-west have as much a right as people in Dublin, Limerick, Cork or Galway to have reasonable access to centres where special services and equipment are available.

"As long as the powers that be insist on concentrating only on cities like Galway that are already overdeveloped the rest of the West will stagnate. Bring a dual-carriageway from Dublin to Roscommon, Ballaghaderreen, Ballina and Castlebar and those towns will develop rapidly. It is all so unfair and so stupid," Bishop Jones added.

Another member of the Council, Michael McGarrigle from County Donegal, warned that the removal of the cancer services from Sligo would leave all of the north-west area devoid of a service. "The Government guidelines of one centre of excellence for every 250,000 population would suggest a national requirement of between 12 and 14 centres. Why was the decision made to reduce the number to 8, or is this to leave the opportunity available to private business to build the remaining 5 or 6 centres of excellence?" he asked

"With the journey time from Donegal to Galway or Dublin in excess of 3 hours, and, indeed from some parts of Donegal in excess of 4 hours, how can a government say they are treating all the people of the nation equally?" he added.

Council for the West chairman Sean Hannick said while his Council agreed specialist centres were in the best interests of cancer patients, it was absurd and unfair that half of the eight centres chosen were in Dublin while the needs of 200,000 people north of Galway were being ignored.

He said his Council agreed with leading oncologist Professor John Crown's observation that it would make great sense to have one cancer centre in Sligo to cater for almost a quarter of a million people in the catchment area, and one centre less in Dublin where the population figures failed to justify the location of four centres of excellence.

"And Sligo would be a much more convenient location for cancer patients located in North Mayo also," he pointed out.

He agreed with Bishop Jones that people in the north-west simply did not appear to register with health planners in Dublin. "We have already seen it in the appallingly truculent and mean-minded manner in which the breast check services were rolled out to the region," he added. 

And he said his Council wanted to place it on record that all the issues relating to centres of excellence as outlined by the HSE had not been addressed, and were unlikely to be until mayhem ensued. Those issues related to hospital accommodation, public transport, adequate car parking, streamlined appointments and back-up equipment.

"It is one thing to travel 45 minutes  across Dublin to attend a Centre of Excellence, it is a totally different thing to have to travel from Belmullet or Inishowen to Galway - perhaps a round journey of 8 hours - only to be sent home again because all the obvious facilities were not put in place. People from this region have had to endure that lack of respect and basic human rights for generations," added Mr Hannick. 

**ENDS**

Note to Editors:

The Council for the West is a voluntary, independent, non-political body which monitors and reports on the socio-economic state of the West and acts as a lobby group promoting the development of the West. The Council for the West was set up by the Western Bishops and has successfully campaigned for retention of Objective 1 Status for the region.  It continues to campaign for balanced regional development and highlights issues of major concern for the region.

Contact Points:

Public Relations Officer:   Terry Reilly 086 8109518 / 096 21603 / email: terryreilly@eircom.net

Co-ordinator:                     Caroline Wilson, Tel: 096 32975 / email: cftwest@iol.ie


Spokepersons:

Bishop Jones:              087 2206657                 

Michael McGarrigle:    086 8627605

Sean Hannick:              087 2564824