Work on a new cancer services unit at Waterford Regional Hospital is not scheduled to commence this year, much to the disappointment of local campaigners and politicians alike.
In a communication to Labour Deputy Brian O’Shea, the network manager of the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) south-east hospital group intimated that there will be no sod-turning at the new unit in the imminent future.
However, Richard Dooley confirmed to Deputy O’Shea that “it is still in the National Captial Plan,” which runs until 2011, according to a statement issued by the Waterford TD on Monday.
Deputy O’Shea understands that the Estates Directorate of the HSE “has been engaged to commence the process of finalising a development control plan for the WRH site”.
Consideration is also being taken by the HSE “as to the most appropriate site location for all new developments including the specialist cancer services and palliative care in-patient units”.
The architect for this project has been engaged and work is due to commence this month.
“It is most disappointing that work on the new cancer services unit will not now start on site in 2008,” according to Deputy O’Shea.
“It is essential that all obstacles to the progress of this urgently needed health facility for the people of Waterford and the south east region are removed with all haste.”
Deputy O’Shea has also tabled a parliamentary question to Health Minister Mary Harney on the matter.
Cancer campaigner Jane Bailey said that there were “no words to describe the madness of this decision”.
She added: “We are worse off than before because Waterford has been designated as a regional centre of excellence but we don’t have the resources to match that (tag).”
Meanwhile, Kilkenny County Councillor Michael O’Brien believes that heightened public awareness of the shortfall in cancer services represents a fitting legacy to the late Susie Long, who died from bowel cancer last October aged 41.
“One thing we cannot forget in Kilkenny is that the tragic death of Susie Long not only happened – but that it happened in our community and in the same acute local public health system that most of us depend on,” said Cllr O’Brien.
Susie Long was originally referred for a scan by her local doctor in the summer of 2005 but due to her being a public patient, she remained on a waiting until February 28th 2006.
Over 5,000 people, including Cllr O’Brien attended a SIPTU/ICTU-organised rally on the health service in Dublin last Saturday.