Government must deliver promised cancer centre for the west and northwest without further delay

Prioritising the delivery of the promised cancer care network for the Saolta region and the cancer centre on the campus of University Hospital Galway (UHG ) has the potential to bridge the healthcare inequality that exists between East and West in this country and will save patients’ lives, an information meeting in the city heard this week.

There are three projects on the UHG site all at strategic assessment report (SAR ) stage, but they need to be integrated into one comprehensive project that will deliver a functional cancer “hospital within a hospital”.

This can be delivered within five years provided action is taken and a design team is appointed by the Department of Health immediately. This is what attendees at the latest information evening, hosted by Cancer Care West and the National Breast Cancer Research Institute, for the proposed cancer centre on the UHG campus heard when they met at the Clayton Hotel, Galway.

The National Development Plan (NDP ) promised a dedicated, fit for purpose cancer centre at UHG and a cancer care network for the Saolta region which would improve patient outcomes. The project needs to be fast tracked in line with Sláintecare proposals and the National Cancer Strategy target of a 3% reduction in population inequalities for cancer incidence and survival by 2026.

The need for a fit for purpose Model 4 hospital, including the cancer centre, was called out publicly by Saolta clinical leaders in November 2022. Appointing a project design team is a matter of urgency. The Strategic Assessment Report (SAR ) endorsed by the HSE board in March 2023 awaits action by the Department of Health.

Prof. Michael Kerin, Director Saolta-University of Galway Cancer Network, said the West and Northwest of Ireland are the most disadvantaged and geographically dispersed with the highest incidence and mortality from cancer.

“The only Model 4 hospital in our region is overcrowded and cancer patients are competing with emergency patients for beds and services daily. The lack of fit-for-purpose facilities means patients do not get the necessary care they need. Some patients are diagnosed too late to receive the appropriate care they could have received if diagnosis had been earlier.

“In a modern, advanced country like Ireland, your outcome from cancer should not depend on where you live. Cancer care in Ireland is an eircode lottery - we know what is required to solve this problem and that solution is already on the National Development Plan (NDP ).

“Delivery of the cancer centre committed in the NDP will require an integrated, comprehensive plan for the Model 4 Hospital site and needs a whole of government approach. Support for the proposed plan has been forthcoming from the HSE, the Department of Health and the National Cancer Control Programme, but the remaining hurdles to progressing this project need to be cleared as quickly as possible.

“Good cancer care can only be delivered out of functioning cancer centre with appropriate regional facilities. National strategy has positioned four heavy-weight Model 4 hospitals within a 10-mile radius in Dublin but leaves the west and northwest trying to deliver care from outdated, dysfunctional infrastructure. We can no longer accept this.”

“The cancer centre is arguably the single biggest commitment to health in the West and Northwest of Ireland in a generation. Details of the project were announced in 2022 at an event in Dublin, which was attended by members of the Oireachtas from all the counties in the Saolta region.

“A further information meeting, attended by three hundred stakeholders including Ministers and senior politicians, was held in Galway last November. This life saving cancer centre must be delivered across a 5-year timescale – in accordance with international norms,” he concluded.


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