A Chathaoirligh, I thank you for letting my motion be heard this evening. I welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate him on his promotion. I wish him well in his term of office.
I have no doubt the Minister is well aware of the need for a kidney dialysis unit in Castlebar for the county of Mayo. Mayo is a county of more than 2,000 square miles and has a population of 110,000. It is dreadful that to date our county general hospital has no kidney dialysis unit. There are 13 patients in Mayo who receive kidney dialysis treatment. Some come from remote parts of the county and the Minister may be aware that most people have to travel to County Galway for treatment. Such travel is very tiring for patients undergoing lengthy dialysis treatment. County Mayo is so vast that for many to travel out of the county alone would necessitate a journey longer than from Wexford to Dublin.
I thank the Garda Síochána for their tremendous fund raising events, which raised in excess of £57,000 towards a kidney dialysis unit in Castlebar. I also thank the Castlebar Rotary Club and various other Mayo clubs who have raised a total of £150,000 towards the cause. The Minister knows there is great community involvement in the effort to obtain this unit.
In the near future the Minister will be travelling to Mayo to turn the sod for the new general hospital in Castlebar. We will then be able to see at first hand the dearth of hospital facilities in Mayo. The organisations that have raised funds over a long number of years are only too willing to donate that money so the kidney dialysis unit can begin its services in the near future. It will cost in the region of £150,000 annually to run the unit.
I call on the Minister, the Western Health Board and other agencies involved to make a special case and to provide Castlebar with this much needed facility. There may be patients from other counties in addition to the 13 in Mayo, who could avail of the unit.
I draw the Minister's attention to another pressing need in relation to leukaemia and cancer treatment. The vast majority of people outside Dublin, especially those in the west of Ireland have to travel all the way to Dublin for leukaemia treatment, chemotherapy or other cancer treatments. I call on the Minister and also perhaps the Minister for Transport Energy and Communications to provide such people with free public transport. I came across a very sad case in the last week——