Consultants submitplan for cancer unit

THE Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) has applied for permission to start building a vital new cancer satellite centre at Altnagelvin this year in time for 2016 when cancer services in Belfast will have already reached capacity.

Consultants firm Turley Associates wrote to the planning office last month with a full planning application for the new radiotherapy centre including a design statement, site location plan, drawings and technical and environmental reports.

If approved work on the building will begin in 2013. It will require the demolition of an existing mortuary, generator and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant at Altnagelvin.

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Health officials view the establishment of the new state-of-the-art centre as vital to ease pressure in the east.

For example, over two years ago the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPSNI) said it anticipated that the cancer centre at Belfast City Hospital would be at capacity by 2015.

The ultra-modern radiotherapy centre will include four linear accelerators inside especially constructed bunkers to protect people outside the bunker from radiation used to treat cancer sufferers.

Three of these will be fitted out as part of this project with associated support facilities, according to Turley Associates.

A 27 bed ward will also be built along with five rooms constructed as shell only.

The Sperrin Unit, will also be altered as part of the plans.

Turley Associates explain that the work will include the “expansion and refurbishment of Chemotherapy which will be served by new entrance facilities included in the brief.”

A new entrance and forecourt will be created to allow direct access to Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy.

A total of c.142 car parking spaces will be provided for Radiotherapy patients.

In a letter to the planners the consultants explained: “We are pleased to enclose this full planning application on behalf of the Western Health and Social Care trust (WHSCT) for a new Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.

“The proposal involves demolition of the existing modular, mortuary, generator and CHP buildings presently on site, the erection of a new radiotherapy hospital building, making external alterations to the existing Sperrin Suite (a chemotherapy unit), the provision of basement and surface car parking and the undertaking of landscaping access and ancillary site works.

Health Minister Edwin Poots recently revealed the local health service is sending sick and suffering people as far afield as Regensburg, Germany, for radiotherapy or radiosurgery.

Mr Poots revealed that the University Hospital in Regensburg alongside dozens of hospitals in Great Britain have been the destination for dozens of local cancer patients over the past five years.

Western Trust Chairman Gerard McGuckian has described the centre as “absolutely essential.”

He stated: “This Radiotherapy Unit is not just important for the people of the North-West and the West of the Province, it’s absolutely essential and it is the right thing to do in creating the necessary future capacity for the whole of Northern Ireland.

“Most importantly this would provide a vital service to the most vulnerable patients who currently have to travel to Belfast for radiotherapy treatment.”