by Louise Doyle
DONEGAL’S newly elected five TD’s will not be allowed to “rest on their laurels”, and will be urged to address the health needs of cancer patients in the county, the chairperson of Donegal Action for Cancer Care (DACC) has warned.
Betty Holmes was making her comments ahead of her departure to Brussels tomorrow as part of a 38 person delegation to the European Parliament to discuss long-held concerns for local cancer patients.
Her comments come in the wake of the dramatic and nail-biting General Election at the weekend, which saw five Donegal TD’s – Charlie McConalogue and Pat the Cope Gallagher of Fianna Fail, Joe McHugh, Fine Gael, Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein, and Independent, Thomas Pringle – took their seats in the 32nd Dail after a marathon 28 hours of counting and recounting ballot papers in Aura Leisure Centre, Letterkenny.
During tomorrow’s trip to Brussels it’s understood members of DACC will present Parliament with a copy of the map showing, what they argue, is the unequal and unfair distribution of services in Ireland, with eight of all Centres of Excellence either on, or south of, the Dublin-Galway line.
The DACC chairperson believes that EU guidelines which state that health systems should be accessible are not being adhered to here.
She says while the development of the North West Radiotherapy Unit is significant, more is needed to help cancer patients in Donegal.
Speaking to the Donegal News earlier today, Ms Holmes said: “DACC really welcome this major opportunity to discuss our serious concerns for Donegal cancer services. We will be asking the European Parliament to recognise the geographical location of Donegal in relation to the eight Centres of Excellence in Ireland, asking for their support in reversing the Centralisation of the referral appointments from Galway back to Letterkenny Hospital with major waiting lists at present and highlighting our very serious concerns for the 800 prostate cancer patients who have not been seen with their follow up appointments.
“We feel that these major concerns are covered under the EU Communication from the Commission on effective, accessible and resilient health systems which states that ‘Health systems must be accessible’. This is one of the principles stated in the European Social Charter, which emphasises the importance of transparent criteria for access to medical treatment and the obligation for States to have adequate healthcare system which does not exclude parts of the population from receiving healthcare services. Patients should have reasonable access to health care services: They should not have to travel to far or wait to long to access the service they need.
“We are hoping that our DACC map will make a very clear statement regarding where Donegal is and how this is not recognised by the Irish Government or Health System. We will do our very best for Donegal cancer patients and services as we have been doing for almost 11 years in a voluntary unpaid capacity.”
Continuing, Ms Holmes outlined the action she hoped to see from Donegal’s new TD’s, and revealed that she has already been in correspondence with the newly-elected politicians.
“We will be putting pressure on them to do the right thing for cancer patients here in Donegal. We will be looking for a meeting with them and we we be wanting their unwavering support.
“The candidates will have experienced their own tough journey over the weekend – both those who were and were not elected – but we say to our five TD’s that those with cancer and their families face a tough journey every day in so many ways, and this has to change. Our TD’s must be proactive and our cancer patients must be the focus.”