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New Radiation Oncology Centre to benefit West and North West patients

 Seven people in formal clothes standing indoors beside Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, who stands in front of a pair of small red curtains and a sign on a wall.

“I am delighted that this new Radiation Oncology Centre has now opened – it’s a great resource for the people of the West and North West of Ireland,” according to Dr Cormac Small, Consultant Radiation Oncologist at University Hospital Galway (UHG), adding that “the entire building has been designed not just for today’s needs but also for future needs.”

University Hospital Galway and the Saolta Group recently announced the official opening of the state-of-the-art Saolta Radiation Oncology Centre. The newly built centre, which is opening on a phased basis, has been equipped to the highest specification.

Dr Small explained that the new centre will “allow for the expansion of our service across a wide range of areas."

"The dedicated ambulatory care area will allow for the expansion of our nursing service to patients and will also play a vital role in allowing patients to stay out of hospital and remain at home for their treatment. There is also now a space for allied health professions – this allows for the expansion of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, and speech and language therapy.”

Outlining how they have future-proofed the facility, Dr Small said that they have “two empty treatment bunkers that allow for expansion as needed."

"We have designed these bunkers to accept the next generation of MRI base linear accelerators which weren’t even available when we planned the building. We have only been able to open due to the hard work and dedication of all the staff in the Radiation Oncology Department over the last number of years. I would also like to thank the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), the design team and hospital management for their support.”

The unit is the largest infrastructure development in the history of UHG. The newly built 8,000sqm radiotherapy unit will allow for an increase in capacity for radiotherapy treatments. The new technology also significantly increases the ability to accurately target and treat tumours.

Building of the 8,000sqm facility commenced in 2020 on the site of the former acute mental health unit at the hospital with an overall project budget of €70.7m. The new three-storey building includes six radiotherapy treatment vaults, using the most advanced linear accelerator technology. These provide improved imaging and allowing greater precision and accuracy in targeting disease.

The machines can deliver stereotactic radiotherapy treatment which is a highly focused technique delivering ultra-precise treatment to tumours. This advancement will ensure that patients will no longer have to travel to Dublin for this treatment. 

A new brachytherapy suite has been built containing a state-of-the-art surgical theatre and treatment rooms, along with a new suite for skin treatments. The centre also includes a new radiation oncology outpatient suite with 12 clinic rooms and facilities for patient review and support.

The new centre will also, next year, welcome the installation of Ireland’s first MRI-RT simulator - an MRI scanner specifically for the needs of radiation oncology patients which allows better soft tissue definition and improves the precision in targeting the disease.

Describing the new centre as a “fantastic development to enhance and improve the radiotherapy services we provide to patients in our region,” Chris Kane, Hospital Manager, explained that it will “facilitate us in providing services in a modern and larger facility with the latest equipment and technology. It will enable us, on a phased basis, to increase our range of treatments, and increase our staffing and will provide, over time, additional capacity to treat additional patients. I want to acknowledge and thank everyone who worked on this project from its inception to delivery.”

Chris added that the hospital has secured “increased staffing allocation for the department, with the number of radiation therapists due to rise from 25 to 46. While recruitment to these posts and others remains an ongoing challenge, we continue to prioritise filling all vacant posts.”

Professor Risteárd Ó Laoide, Director of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) noted that the new centre “represents an important milestone in the commitment of NCCP to deliver optimal cancer care to patients and their families in the West of Ireland." 

"This centre is staffed by highly skilled and committed health care professionals.  This, combined with access to the latest advancements in radiation oncology treatment, will ensure the best outcome for our patients.” 

Tony Canavan, CEO of the Saolta University Hospital Group explained that “Investment in Galway as a supra-regional cancer centre is essential to meet the demands of our population and the opening of this new radiotherapy centre is a very positive step in the right direction.”  

For Professor Michael Kerin, Director of the Cancer Managed Clinical Academic Network (MCAN) for Saolta, the new centre represents a “step change in our ability to deliver fit-for-purpose cancer care in a modern environment. The radiotherapy programme is a key component of cancer therapy and this facility will ensure that the patients from the West of Ireland can receive international class outcomes from this part of their cancer journey.”

Performing the official opening, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said he was “delighted to open this new radiation oncology centre, which is the result of a commitment to expand radiotherapy provision in Galway under our National Cancer Strategy.”