Council backs campaign to save breast cancer service at hospital

Some of those who attended a meeting opposed to changes to breast cancer services at Craigavon Area Hospital.
Some of those who attended a meeting opposed to changes to breast cancer services at Craigavon Area Hospital.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council has backed a campaign to save breast cancer services at the local hospital.

Council was united in its opposition to consolidate assessment services at Altnagelvin, Antrim and the Ulster Hospital,

A notice of motion was brought forward by Lord Mayor Julie Flaherty at the council’s last full meeting before the local government election.

She said: “It may be an Ulster Unionist Notice of Motion, but I believe I am speaking for the whole chamber... when I bring this to the floor... for a very brave group of campaigners.”

The motion read: “This Council notes with grave concern the public consultation under the ‘Reshaping Breast Assessment Services’ which could lead to the closure the local Craigavon Area Hospital Breast Clinic Services.

“The closure of this highly efficient unit would have a devastating effect on many of our constituents who rely on this life saving service locally and those who travel from throughout the Southern Trust area.

“That this Council writes urgently to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, the Health Board and the Secretary of State in reply to this latest consultation paper in order to support this service being retained at Craigavon Area Hospital.

“That this Council, within their correspondence, objects in the strongest of terms to the suggestion that this vital service is lost in our local acute hospital.”

Cllr Flaherty said: “I cannot believe, although in ways I am not surprised, that I have to bring such a motion to council tonight. It feels like I have gone full circle.

“My first experience of local politics was sitting beside an incubator filling in a consultation document and writing letters about the review into Paediatric Cardiology Services, and believe me, I wrote to everyone at that time,”

She said the issue will be brought down to cold numbers and statistics: “The coldness of this is not lost on me, the people who will be affected by this are not numbers, they are not statistics... They are people, our constituents, they are real, they are here with us tonight and I applaud them for being here and I applaud them for the campaign they have started with such vigour and passion.”

She said: “I cannot stress strongly enough how vitally important it is to fill in the consultation document, above all else this is where numbers do matter.

This is where your voice matters!

“I do not want to see this service being lost. My party group do not want to see this lost. No party wants to see this vital service lost so I hope that we can speak with one voice to oppose this closure, to pledge our support to all those who use this vital service by standing shoulder to shoulder with these ladies here tonight and those at home whose voices need to be heard.”

The motion was seconded by her party colleague Alderman Arnold Hatch who said: “This is an issue which transcends party politics, there is no need for any posturing here tonight.

“This cuts through everything in life for all of us, and unfortunately will probably affect all of us or our loved ones and some stage in life.

“We have a top class service here in Craigavon Area Hospital and we should put our shoulders to the wheel and do all in our power to retain this service.

“More than happy, if not disappointed overall at this state of affairs, to second this Motion.”