Dáil Éireann - Volume 597 - 10 February, 2005

Written Answers - Health Reports.

  47. Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the recommendations of the radiation oncology report are still part of Government policy; if they have been modified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4222/05]

  Ms Harney: The Government’s policy on radiation oncology is based on the report entitled “The Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland”. The report was prepared by a multidisciplinary group of experts in radiation oncology, medical oncology, public health and palliative care, including representatives of bodies such as the Irish College of General Practitioners, the Irish Cancer Society and Aid Cancer Treatment. The report has had significant international endorsement from such bodies as the US National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

The Government is determined to ensure access by cancer patients throughout the country to high quality radiation oncology in line with best international standard. Significant progress is being made in implementing the report’s recommendations. Two additional linear accelerators are being provided at the supra-regional centre at Cork University Hospital at a capital cost of over €4 million. The first of these linear accelerators has been installed and the second is expected to be commissioned by the autumn. Last year, approval issued for the appointment of 29 staff for this unit and additional ongoing revenue funding of €3 million to cater for this expansion. Two additional consultant radiation oncologists will be [1086] appointed at Cork University Hospital with sessional commitments to the south-eastern and the mid-western areas. Cork University Hospital is also in the process of recruiting other key posts required for the commissioning of the new linear accelerators.

The supra-regional centre at University College Hospital, Galway, is constructed and the equipment is currently being commissioned. Last year, approval issued for the appointment of 102 staff for this unit, together with ongoing revenue funding of €12 million to cater for this expansion. Approval issued for the appointment of an additional consultant medical oncologist and three consultant radiation oncologists, two of whom have significant sessional commitments to the north-western and the mid-western areas. Key staffing is in place, with two consultant radiation oncologists taking up post in March. The western area is confident of meeting its target date for commencement of patient treatments in March 2005.

The report recommends that there should be two radiotherapy treatment centres located in the eastern region, one serving the southern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas and one serving the northern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas. The international panel established to advise on the optimum locations for radiation oncology services in the eastern region submitted its advice to me on 28 January last. I intend to reach an early decision on this matter.

While the immediate priority is to provide significantly enhanced services in the major population centres of Dublin, Cork and Galway, I will keep the question of networked satellite locations under active review.

As recommended in the report, the national radiation oncology co-ordinating group was established last year. The group 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. The group will also advise on quality assurance protocols and guidelines for the referral of public patients to private facilities.