Today at Altnagelvin Hospital Health Minister Jim Wells, along with the Irish Health Minister, Leo Varadkar, viewed progress with the new cardiology service and then visited the site of the hospital’s new Radiotherapy Unit.
The primary PCI service at Altnagelvin, part of a region wide PCI service, commenced on 15 September 2014 and is available to all patients in the Western Health and Social Care Trust and a proportion of patients within the Northern Trust.
Speaking about the visit, Minister Wells said: “I am pleased to have this opportunity to see the primary PCI service and the state of the art cath lab facilities.
“Cardiac catheterisation labs can be of enormous benefit to patients having a heart attack, allowing them to bypass the Emergency Department and go straight to the lab for treatment.
“These innovative, facilities are a shining example of the excellent work in the Western Trust.
“The primary PCI service at Altnagelvin has already benefited patients in Northern Ireland and has potential to help patients in the Republic of Ireland living in County Donegal by providing capacity for 50 primary PCI cases per year.
Minister Varadkar said: “Cross-border co-operation on health is one of the unsung successes of the Good Friday Agreement.
“People from Donegal will soon benefit from state of the art treatments for cancer and heart attack closer to home in Derry.
“At the same time, children from the North can have specialist heart surgery in Dublin and adults from south of the border can access Deep Brain Stimulation treatments in Belfast.
“There is even more scope for new exciting areas of future co-operation. We are an island of just over six million people and it makes sense to pool our resources to provide better health care for all our citizens”.
The Ministers visited the site of the new Altnagelvin Radiotherapy Unit which will provide radiotherapy treatment to 90% of clinically suitable patients in the North West region, including the Republic of Ireland.
Minister Wells said after the visit: “Cancer is a particular challenge to our health care system, however it is a global problem and not just in Northern Ireland.
“Access to effective treatments for the population of Northern Ireland is an important priority for me and for my Department.
“This project is a joint effort between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and will improve access to radiotherapy for patients from both jurisdictions. I support partnership working between our two countries; each has a valuable input to this project and it makes sense to work together towards improving the health of both our populations.
“When fully operational, the Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin will be able to treat approximately 1,150 Northern Ireland patients and 385 Republic of Ireland patients each year. The unit will be fully operational by autumn 2016.”
Minister Varadkar said: “Altnagelvin Radiotherapy Unit will significantly improve access to radiation oncology services right across the West Ulster region, on both sides of the border. Among the beneficiaries are people living in Co. Donegal and surrounding areas. It will provide high quality services on their doorstep, on a par with those provided in the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre in Belfast. I want to thank Minister Wells for his personal commitment and I know that many people have worked long and hard to see the project to contract stage.”
Western Trust Chairman Gerard Guckian was delighted to showcase the state-of-the-art Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) Service to the Ministers.
He said: “We have been working cooperatively over the past number of months with Saolta University Health Care Group and the HSCB to scope the potential to provide PCI services on a cross border basis, which will significantly enhance cardiology services for patients living in County Donegal. We are pleased that this work is progressing well and there is agreement in principle that in the near future patients from County Donegal will be able to avail of the primary PCI services here in Altnagelvin. This will provide real benefits to heart attack patients through rapid access to these high quality, life-saving services delivered by our exceptional Cardiac Intervention Team.
Regarding the Radiotherapy Unit Mr Guckian said: “This unique cross-border project will not only serve the people of the Western Trust and northern sector of the Northern Trust area, it will also treat people from the Republic of Ireland, including Donegal and will make a real difference to people being treated for cancer and their families. We would like to thank both Ministers and their Departments for their continued support for this project.