Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Pearse Doherty (Sinn Fein)
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an Tí. Tuigim, mar a dúirt tú leis an tSeanadóir Ó Domhnaill gur fearr leat a bheith anseo nuair a bhíonn ceist a bhaineann le do Roinn le plé. Is mór an trua é, nach bhfuil an tAire Sláinte agus Leanaí ábalta a bheith anseo leis an cheist seo a phlé, ach beidh an freagra agat. Tá súil agam gur freagra maith atá ann. Is í an cheist atá le plé ná seirbhísí ailse in Ospidéal Ginearálta Shligigh agus an gá iad a choinneáil ansin. Ní hamháin sin, ach caithfear méadú a chur leis na seirbhísí ailse atá ar fáíl sa réigiún sin, an iar thuaisceart, go háirithe, go mbeidh seirbhís radaiteiripe ar fáíl d'othair ón cheantar sin. Aréir, bhí cruinniú pacáilte i mBaile Dhún na nGall do dhaoine ar a bhfuil imní mhór faoi seo, nach bhfuil a leithéid seirbhís radaiteiripe ar fáil, agus níos tábhachtaí ná sin, mar go bhfuil an Rialtas ag tarraingt siar ar an tseirbhís atá san Ospidéal Ginearálta Shligigh, a bhí ann ó 2000 ar aghaidh, is é sin an tseirbhís ailse.
I am here to ask the Minister for Health and Children to retain cancer services at Sligo General Hospital and to further develop those services to include radiation oncology. Last night I attended a packed meeting in Donegal town where we heard the concerns of patients and families of those who went through cancer treatment in the recent past or those who have been diagnosed with cancer and are going through treatment. They are appalled at the decision by the HSE and this Government to remove the cancer services that have been in Sligo General Hospital since 2000 and to ask patients to travel to Galway for their cancer surgical and diagnostic services in the future.
The Minister will be aware that there is a clear line drawn on the map of Ireland with all the eight centres of excellence below a line drawn between Galway and Dublin. The concern I echo here today is that the people of the north west, too, are cancer sufferers, need the type of treatment available to other regions, are taxpayers in this country and have votes. I was informed at last night's meeting that they will use their votes if they are not able to achieve their goals of retaining the services in Sligo General Hospital and developing them to include radiation oncology. Deputy Ó Cuív's heart is in the west and I appeal to him to bring the appeal I echo on behalf of the patients of the north west and their families and friends to the Minister for Health and Children and ask her to look sympathetically on it. I very clearly told the Minister for Health and Children in this Chamber that she is guilty of negligence of the health concerns of the people of the north west. I repeat that again tonight because she is stripping services from these hospitals. The west and north west is one of the last regions to avail of BreastCheck and time and again we are ignored.
Last night's calls were heartfelt and it was difficult to listen to them. Some of the speakers had just come through cancer treatment in recent weeks and talked in glowing terms about the service in Sligo General Hospital and the consultants there. Within a couple of days people can be seen, find out if they have cancer and be referred for the necessary treatment. There is also concern about the fact that there is no radiation available in the north west. People are forced to travel long journeys, 400 mile round trips, leaving their families for seven or eight weeks at a time of serious difficulty for them when they need their families around them. We also know of the incidents where, unfortunately, women choose to have mastectomies instead of availing of the treatment. The demand from the north west, from Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo and south Donegal, is that these services are maintained in Sligo General Hospital, that they are expanded to include radiation oncology and that the north west has another centre of excellence that will rebalance the map which shows the eight centres all based in the southern end of this island.