Northern Ireland

'No cash' to run Altnagelvin radiotherapy unit

Plans for a new radiotherapy unit in Altnagelvin hospital in Londonderry are in jeopardy after the Health Minister announced there would be no money to staff it.

Michael McGimpsey made the announcement after a shortfall of £800m was revealed in the health budget.

Health officials have also predicted up to 4,000 job losses over four years.

The unit, which is to be built by 2015, would mean some cancer patients no longer have to travel to Belfast.

The chairman of the Western Trust, Gerard Guckian, said the unit would cost £7.5m per year to run.

'Absolutely essential'

"We don't doubt the commitment of both the minister and the health and social care board to build the unit, but it would be absolutely disastrous if we did not get the revenue funding to actually run the building.

"This is something which is not just important for the north west and the west of the province, it is now absolutely essential and it is the right thing to do."

Rosaleen Helferty, who has breast cancer, said the news was a disappointment to many people.

"I can't believe that a couple of years ago they were saying yes, the money was there and it was definitely going to be there, and we were celebrating.

"There are a lot of concerns and a lot of fears now about what's happening."

SDLP councillor Mark H Durkan said it was "a real kick in the teeth for Derry".

"This decision, if carried, will have massive ramifications on the health of people right across the island of Ireland."

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