West’s cancer patients fearful of any further delay for UHG radiation oncology unit

HSE funding shortfall could delay project

Eleanor McGowan adopts an easy attitude to her cancer diagnosis, but knows a look of near panic when she sees one.

"It's when a machine breaks down, as it does regularly, and I see it in the eyes of the staff at University Hospital Galway (UHG) radiation treatment unit,"she says.

"The timetables are all knocked out, and the staff know what this means for the patients who have to travel," Ms McGowan, a mother, grandmother and family businesswoman from Bundoran, Co Donegal, says.

She appreciates how important it is that the Government does not postpone – for a second time – a €30 million radiation oncology unit at the hospital. The Health Service Executive had already published a tender for the unit several months ago.


However, as reported in Saturday's Irish Times, a funding shortfall in the health service capital budget could delay a number of planned projects, including the west's new radiation oncology unit.

UHG’s centre of excellence treats cancer patients right along the Atlantic seaboard from Donegal to north Clare.

Patients and partners

The Cancer Care West charity provides accommodation for 33 patients and partners at the Inis Aoibhinn lodge on the UHG campus.

However, many others must find their own accommodation during treatment which can last seven to eight weeks – or travel daily by bus or car to and from Mayo , Sligo, Leitrim, and north Clare.

Canadian journalist Mark Dulmage, a former CNN bureau chief in Italy, the Lebanon and Japan, considers himself very fortunate to have secured accommodation at Inis Aoibhinn during his treatment for lung cancer.

Almost 88 and a veteran of the Korean War, Mr Dulmage and his partner, Valerie, live in Louisburgh, Co Mayo.

‘Equipment difficulties’

“Inis Aoibhinn’s staff are so wonderful that it almost makes it a delight to be here,”Mr Dulmage says.

“The Galway hospital staff are also wonderful, but we know what they are dealing with as we had appointments for radiotherapy postponed three times in one day because of equipment difficulties.”

The phase two unit in Galway had been scheduled for 2015 originally, to allow the current unit – opened in 2005 – to increase from three linear accelerators to four, with a capacity for five.

The National Association of General Practitioners has said any further delay is “unacceptable”.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times