Thursday, 4 March 2004

Questions (114)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

109 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans there are for the development of radiation oncology services in the north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7366/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy is aware, I launched the Report on the Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland 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 the programme will be the development of a clinical network of large centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

The implementation of the report's recommendations is my most important priority in cancer services in the acute hospital setting. As a first step, I have provided additional resources this year to begin to implement the report's recommendations. In regard to the supra-regional centre at University College Hospital, Galway, I am making available €2.5 million ongoing revenue funding for this service this year. This centre is constructed and the equipment is currently being commissioned. Last year, I approved the appointment of a consultant radiation oncologist. This week, I approved the appointment of a second medical oncologist and an additional consultant radiation oncologist with significant sessional commitments to the North-Western Health Board.

I have requested the Western Health Board to prepare a development control plan to facilitate an increase from three to six in the number of linear accelerators at UCHG in the medium term. I have also approved the establishment of a project team to plan this expansion in the region. The project team will meet for the first time next week. These developments will have significant benefits for patients in the north-western region.

It is my intention to develop a national integrated network of radiation oncology, based on equitable access regardless of location and an effective national quality assurance programme. As recommended in the report, I have established the National Radiation Oncology Co-ordinating Group. The group, which recently held its first meeting, comprises clinical, technical, managerial, academic and nursing expertise from different geographic regions. The group's remit encompasses recommending measures to facilitate improved access to existing and planned services, including transport and accommodation. I expect the group to develop proposals in these important areas.

The Government has also decided that in the future development of services, consideration should be given to developing satellite centres at Waterford, Limerick and the north-west. Such consideration will take into account the international evaluation of satellite centres, the efficacy of providing this model and the need to ensure quality standards of care.