The HSE has issued an assurance that it is fully committed to the development of cancer services at Waterford Regional Hospital. It came from the Executive’s Regional Hospital Group Network Manager, Mr. Richard Dooley, who was responding to concerns voiced by Dail Deputy Brian O’Shea that fast-tracking of the project seemed to have ceased.

Deputy O’Shea (Lab) tabled a Parliamentary Question to Health Minister Mary Harney seeking the reasons why expansion of WRH would not go ahead in the planned timeframe promised before the 2007 General Election. He was told the Minister planned to ensure that the hospital fulfilled its role as one of the specialist cancer centres in the timeframes envisaged in the Cancer Strategy being implemented by Professor Keane. Patients in the region would have access to a speedy and comprehensive service “in the short to medium term”.

Mr. Dooley told the Deputy that plans are proceeding for the development of specialist cancer services and a palliative care inpatient unit at WRH.

He said that the HSE’s Estates Directorate had been engaged to commence the process of finalising a Development Control Plan for the hospital site, in which consideration would be given to the most appropriate site location for all new developments including the units mentioned. It was anticipated that the appointment of the design team would be made shortly.

Mr. Dooley further reported: “The development of a Cancer Services Unit and Palliative Care Unit as envisaged in the National Capital Plan, together with the provision of public radiotherapy, will complete the physical infrastructural requirements necessary for Waterford Regional Hospital to fully deliver on its role as a Cancer Centre. This is already in place and is being further developed within the ongoing centralisation of breast cancer services.

“A guiding principle in these developments is that patients will not be asked to transfer their attendance to WRH until such time as the necessary resources are in place. In the interim, works have recently been completed on the expansion of the Haematology and Oncology Chemotherapy Day Unit at the hospital. An adjacent ward has been upgraded at a cost of €1.25m”.

Mr. Dooley has additionally informed Deputy O’Shea of confirmation from the HSE that it will have in place radiation oncology capacity to meet the needs of the population by 2010 in some national centres. A date of 2013 has been provisionally given for the additional radiotherapy facilities in WRH.