The new North West Cancer Centre was officially opened at Altnagelvin in Derry yesterday to much pride of local campaign groups.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and Northern Minister for Health, Michelle O’ Neill.

The Centre aims to cater for a population of approx. 0.5 million people, including approximately 110,000 people from the Republic of Ireland and mainly patients from Donegal.

Speaking at the official opening Donegal Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn described the centre as “a victory for people power”. He commended the groups on both sides of the border who campaigned for the centre.

Senator Mac Lochlainn said: “Today is a proud day for the cancer campaign groups in Donegal and Derry. They told their harrowing stories of having to travel to Galway, Dublin and Belfast and rightly said that this had to stop.

“They said that the people of Donegal, Derry and the North West deserved equality of access to cancer care and they campaigned vigorously for our people’s rights. They have demonstrated what can be achieved when our people and our governments work together”.

He continued: “However much more now needs to be done. We need to ensure that cross border cooperation works both ways and that Letterkenny University Hospital receives the investment to deliver some services for people in Derry and Tyrone as well as Donegal too.

Health problems know no borders and the days of our people having to travel to Galway, Dublin or Belfast need to be minimised as much as possible”.

Minister McHugh with Radiotherapy team leader Anne-Marie Lynch, from Ballybofey.

Donegal TD and Minister of State Joe McHugh met Donegal health care leaders working at the new radiotherapy centre.

“I want to pay tribute to all those who campaigned for this centre over many years and who can now see the end result,” said Minister McHugh.

“There are nursing staff from Gaoth Dobhair and others parts of Donegal now working at the radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin and that is an important part of the care being delivered.

“Patients from Donegal are getting a first class service from highly-trained professionals using equipment which is world-class.”

Co-operating for Cancer Care NorthWest, CCC(NW), were delighted to join Mr Niall Birthistle, Chairman, Western Health & Social Care Trust in a joint Ministerial visit of the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Spokesperson Noelle Duddy said: “CCC(NW) took the opportunity during the visit of Minister Michelle O’Neill and Minister Simon Harris to impress upon them the urgent need of both Departments to further develop cross border health services in the North West Region for the mutual benefit of people living on either side of the border.”

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Sean Murphy, Manager Letterkenny Hospital, Minister Michelle O’ Neill, Minister Simon Harris, Noelle Duddy, Cancer campaigner, Elaine Day, CEO, Western Hospital Trust.

“CCC(NW) recognise the uniqueness of this cross border Project and we encourage Governments and Departments of Health, North and South to use it as a strong and positive template to develop further partnerships/collaborations in cross border Healthcare provision into the future and that cross border services be developed and delivered in Letterkenny University Hospital as well as Altnagelvin Hospital.”

“Members of CCC(NW) have long campaigned for this much needed facility to treat cancer patients in the North West Region of this Island, ending for the majority of radiotherapy patients in Donegal the very stressful journeys of travelling to Dublin or Galway. It has taken many years for this project to reach its end goal and it’s fantastic that treatments have commenced.”