Health Minister visits Altnagelvin Area Hospital

Date published: 25 November 2015

Health Minister Simon Hamilton today visited Altnagelvin Area Hospital to hear how the new cardiology service had performed during its first year of 24/7 service and to view progress on the hospital’s new Radiotherapy Unit.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton
Health Minister Simon Hamilton

The 24/7 primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (pPCI) service at Altnagelvin started on 15 September 2014 and is available to all patients in the Western Health and Social Care Trust and a proportion of patients within the Northern Trust. The launch completed full roll out of the pPCI service across Northern Ireland.

The Minister met with staff and patients and afterwards said: “Earlier this month when I set out my plans for the future of the health and social care services, I said we need to see what world class would look like, and that I wanted us to see if we are prepared to take the decisions required to achieve a world class Health and Social Care system. I want what is best done locally, done locally. And what needs to be done regionally, done regionally.

“Here in Altnagelvin we see evidence of what that looks like in practice. The pPCI service is part of a regional service, crossing Trust boundaries, and indeed the Western Trust is looking at extending it to patients from Donegal. But it is also a local service, responding to local needs. The state of the art cardiac catheterisation facilities can be of enormous benefit to patients having a heart attack, allowing them to bypass the emergency department and go straight to the lab for treatment. It is truly an example of a modern, responsive, 24-hour, seven day a week service that provides the right care in the right place at the right time and I pay tribute to the dedicated staff who work so hard to ensure their patients get the best quality care possible.”

Minister Hamilton also visited the new Altnagelvin Radiotherapy Unit which is currently under construction. The unit will provide radiotherapy treatment to 90% of clinically suitable patients in the North West region, including the Republic of Ireland.

The Minister said: “The Altnagelvin Radiotherapy Unit remains on target to become operational in autumn 2016. This will be welcome news for people living in the north west of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who will benefit greatly from the treatment to be provided close to their homes. Cancer is a particular challenge to our health care system, however it is a global problem and not just in Northern Ireland. Access to effective treatments for the population of Northern Ireland is an important priority for me.”

When fully operational, the Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin will be able to treat approximately 1,150 Northern Ireland patients and 385 Republic of Ireland patients each year.

Western Trust Chairman Gerard Guckian was delighted to showcase the state-of-the-art pPCI Service to Minister Hamilton. He said: “The Western Trust has been working cooperatively with Saolta University Health Care Group and the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) to scope the potential to provide pPCI services on a cross border basis. This will provide real benefits to heart attack patients in Donegal through rapid access to these high quality, life-saving services delivered by the Western Trust’s exceptional Cardiac Intervention Team. We are pleased that work is currently underway on developing an agreement which would provide access for Donegal patients to 24/7 primary PCI services at Altnagelvin in the near future. As part of this development, an Interventional Cardiologist is in the process of being appointed who will be based in Letterkenny University Hospital and will contribute to the Altnagelvin service.”

Regarding the Radiotherapy Unit Mr Guckian said: “This unique cross-border project will not only serve the people of the Western Trust and northern sector of the Northern Trust area, it will also treat people from the Republic of Ireland, including Donegal and will make a real difference to people being treated for cancer and their families. We would like to thank Minister Hamilton and his Department for their continued support for this project.”

Notes to editors: 

1. Primary PCI is a state-of-the-art medical technology that clears blockages in the arteries which are stopping blood from flowing to the heart. When the artery is blocked, typically by a fatty deposit and blood clot, a person will suffer from a particular form of heart attack. The pPCI service is expected to carry out around 20 procedures a month.

2. The total capital investment of Radiotherapy Unit is £66.1million including a €19million contribution from RoI. A comprehensive programme of enabling works has already been completed in a challenging timescale. The unit will be completed and operational in 2016.

3. Media queries about this press release to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0567, or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter: @healthdpt

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