The report on the development of radiation oncology services in Ireland was published in October 2003. Its recommendations have been accepted by Government. The Government agrees that a major programme is now required to rapidly develop clinical radiation oncology treatment services to modern standards. Furthermore, the Government has agreed that the first phase of such a new programme should be the development of a clinical network of large centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway. These centres will collectively have the staff and treatment infrastructure to permit a rapid increase in patient access to appropriate radiation therapy and will form the backbone of the future service expansion. The Government has also agreed that in the further development of services, consideration should be given to the efficacy of developing satellite centres in the south-east, mid-west and north-west.
I will be meeting the Mid-Western Hospital Development Trust this evening to discuss its proposal for radiation oncology services at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick. The implementation of the recommendations of the expert report will result in significant improvements as regards access by patients from the Mid-Western Health Board to radiation oncology services. Specifically, the immediate developments in Cork and Galway will result in the provision of an additional five linear accelerators. This represents an increase of approximately 50% in linear accelerator capacity. Provision is also being made for the appointment of an additional five consultant radiation oncologists. We currently have ten consultant radiation oncologists nationally.