Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly has opened the new Saolta Radiation Oncology Centre at Galway University Hospital.
The €70.7 million radiation oncology centre delivered as part of the National Cancer Strategy began to accept patients in the second quarter of 2023
The new centre, which is the largest infrastructure development to date on the campus, consists of a three-story radiation oncology centre at GUH and will provide state of the art treatment for radiotherapy patients in the West of Ireland going forward, improving waiting times and ensuring equal access to cutting edge therapies for patients throughout Ireland.
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.
These 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 superficial 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 country’s first MRI-RT simulator will be installed in the centre next year. This is an MRI scanner specifically for the needs of Radiation Oncology patients, it allows better soft tissue definition and again improves the precision in targeting the disease.
A dedicated ambulatory care area will allow for the expansion of the current nursing service to patients which will facilitate patients to stay out of hospital and remain at home for their treatment. There is now also space for allied health professions which will enable the expansion of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, and speech and language therapy to the patients.
Funding provided in 2021 and 2022 supported the recruitment of 35 additional staff to radiation oncology services in Galway.
Minister Donnelly said, “This centre is the result of a commitment set out in our National Cancer Strategy to expand radiation oncology facilities in Galway, Cork and Dublin. It is important that we build additional capacity in our radiation oncology centres to deal with increased demand. Sixty per cent of all patients with cancer may require radiation therapy at some point, and the incidence of cancer nationally is expected to double by 2045 as our population gets older.
“This centre was delivered as part of our National Plan for Radiation Oncology. This Plan looks at our radiation oncology services in a strategic way and ensures that the vision for these large projects can be delivered. Alongside the radiation oncology unit in Cork University Hospital, this centre will provide enormous benefits for patients offering a comprehensive range of cancer treatment programmes.
“Further investment and major developments are planned in Galway. This includes a new Emergency Department and a Women and Children’s block, which will deliver modern fit-for-purpose facilities for emergency care, maternity, paediatrics, and gynaecology.
“A new Surgical Hub is also planned, which will improve waiting times for patients. A new cancer centre for Galway was featured in the National Development Plan and is currently at the design feasibility stage under the HSE Capital Plan, to be progressed further next year.”
Welcoming the opening of the new centre, Bernard Gloster, HSE CEO, said, “This is a critical development which will further support the delivery of cancer services in the West and Northwest and is a very significant investment in cancer services in the region. This new centre will ensure that patients receive their treatment in a state of the art, modern purpose-built facility that has been developed in a way to allow for future expansion. This new facility will allow the cancer team in Saolta increase the range of treatments, staffing and capacity over time.
“I want to recognise and acknowledge the huge amount of work that has taken place over many years to bring us to today. I look forward to this being one of many Capital Developments in Galway and the Saolta group in the coming years.”