I thank the Minister for taking the time to come to the House to discuss this issue. Among the successes in the health service are the national cancer control programme and the new approach to cardiac care where outcomes are improving. The Minister is very familiar with the fact that the north-west region, north of the Dublin-Galway line and south of Mullingar, is not adequately catered for. We will leave the cancer debate for another day. However, I have probably clocked up a good few hours during the years talking about the issue here. I understand a group is being put in place and that there has been an acknowledgement by the Minister and his officials that, from a cardiac care perspective, there should be an opportunity to insert a stent within 90 minutes of an episode occurring. A total of 80% of the population enjoy proximity to a cardiac centre where that should be possible. However, the north-west region is not adequately catered for in that respect. While there are cardiologists available there, there are no cardio-catheterisation laboratory facilities.
I understand a group has been put together and is chaired by the geriatrician Dr. Colm Henry. I think he is senior in the representative body of clinical directors in the various hospitals. With other cardiologists, he is looking at how best to deal with the anomaly in the north west where, frankly, people who have a heart attack do not have the same potential for survival as those within the catchment area of one of the specialist cardiac centres. I have seen this happen before when the centres of excellence were being chosen. From a clinical perspective, a particular clinic in Sligo was at an advanced stage. However, the Government of the day wound it down and revved up one in Letterkenny in terms of the provision of breast cancer care services.
I gather two cardiologists from Galway will be or are in this group with Dr. Henry. It would suit them to have a cardio-catheterisation laboratory as far away as possible because they do not want to have anything eating into their catchment area, which I know sounds laughable when we are talking about saving people's lives, but there are medical politics. I want to ensure that, if money is made available for the construction and staffing of a cardio-catheterisation to be run at least on a 9 to 5 basis, like the one in Waterford, it will be appropriately located within the region. The appropriate location, notwithstanding the fact that I am from Sligo, is Sligo Regional Hospital which is equidistant from Galway and Altnagelvin in Derry where there is a cardio-catheterisation laboratory and eight cardiologists. The logical location for the laboratory is Sligo.
I hope the Minister will confirm that the group is in existence and chaired by Dr. Henry and outline what it is considering. I want to use this opportunity to impress on the Minister the need to ensure Sligo will be the location of the facility where it would be best placed to serve the entire region. The northern end of the catchment area can be served by Altnagelvin hospital, with the hospital in Galway serving the southern end. I am interested in hearing the Minister's views and hope he will be able to give me some good news.