See NEWS Section to read letter the Campaign sent to the Irish Cancer Society on December 6th and their disappointing reply received today Feb 2nd.
Well, we finally have our chance to talk face to face with the politicians who will be running the country and overseeing the implementation of the NCCP, under which St Luke’s is earmarked to close in 2014/2015. We need to have a rational and achievable target that is feasible and sensible, one that the new government can readily adapt and get kudos out of. I think we can take a few things as ‘given’:
1. FF will not be forming the next government and are the anti-St Luke’s anyway; we would be wasting our time lobbying them when they come a-knocking.
2. The Greens are in the same boat; gone as a political force and won’t have any influence in medium-term health policy decisions.
3. FG and Labour (both parties are pro-St Luke’s) are the likely partners in the next government; the question is though will they need other parties/independents support.
4. SF are pro-St Luke’s and will have TDs who will support our campaign in the next Dail.
So how do we maximise our efforts and bring the campaign to a successful conclusion?
My plan, which others might like to adapt, is as follows:
1. I will write out my ‘wish list’ so that it is ready to hand to the door-steppers when they call. I will be pointing out that, in the greater scheme of saving our country from bankrupcy, saving St Luke’s is but one small step towards that!
2. I will promise them a vote if they can promise me that St Luke’s will not be closed, that it will be retianed for cancer services beyond 2014 and that it will not be changed in any way other than to be augmented by St James’s/Galway/Derry/Belfast cancer services (Note: everybody can put it how the closure will affect their own areas when talking to local candidates, these ones are mine)
3. I will be EMing all candidates sending them my ‘wish list’.
4. I will be ‘Facebooking’ all my friends, asking them to re-visit this page to re-acquaint themselves with things and asking them to challenge door-stepping candidates about their position on St Luke’s. Although the page has 16,500 members, I doubt many have clicked on him since joining it.
I think that if everybody does something like I’m doing, we can prepare the ground by bringing the ‘small’ matter of St Luke’s to the attention of many potential TDs. Then, when the dust settles and we know who is in the position to change the previous government’s decision, we can lobby them to do so, perhaps through the inevitable Health Bill 2011.
Cliff Reid, whose story features in the Campaign’s book Cancer in a cold climate: the shafting of St Luke’s Hospital is standing as an independent candidate in the general election for the Kildare South constituency. Cliff was diagnosed with cancer at age 17. He is now 31 and since his successful treatment at St Luke’s has taken part in an all Ireland expedition to the Antarctic, which was filmed and shown on RTE in 2007.
He is standing on various issues including the retention of St Luke’s Hospital.
If you can help him – ring him at 087 2061999. If you have friends or family in South Kildare please tell them about Cliff. If you can spare a few euros to help his campaign costs, he would really appreciate it.
See News section for details on this.
Susie Long died in 2007 from bowel cancer after waiting 7 months as a public patient for a diagnostic test. Her husband Conor MacLiam is standing in Kilkenny to highlight public health access issues. Susie’s in-laws are great Luke’s supporters and attended our book launch at the Irish Writers Centre. Ex Minister Harney promised €300,000 in 2007 for an endoscopy unit at Luke’s (Kilkenny) but it never materialised.
Click on the link below to find out exactly how and why St Luke’s is threatened with closure. The Save St Luke’s Campaign is not opposed to the NCCP implementation but not at the cost of closing Ireland’s only existing ‘centre of excellence’, a major aim of the NCCP for other hospitals. http://www.hse.ie/eng/about/21c/Cancer_Services/nccp.html
We have now been informed that the same (very expensive) car parking charges that apply to other patients will apply to cancer patients at the new unit (not yet open) at James’s. There are no charges at Luke’s. The powers that be had been considering this issue for some time and have decided on charging. Minister Harney had assured the Dail that the Luke’s ethos would be continued at the new ‘centre of excellence’. Luke’s tries to minimise stress for patients. Not having to worry about the cost of parking helps patients concentrate on getting better.
See the football action in the GALLERY Section
The football tournament was organised by Luke’s supporters in Donegal ie it was independent of the Save St Luke’s Campaign. Funds raised are going to patient comforts. Two Campaign Committee members travelled from Dublin to Letterkenny to support the tournament and had a great time. Well done to everybody involved.
‘ST LUKE’S CELEBRATION CUP: CHARITY AND AWARENESS EVENT’
A successful charity soccer tournament was held in Letterkenny last week. The event was organised in order to raise awareness of the government’s plan to close St Luke’s Cancer Hospital in Rathgar, while at the same time it raised money to purchase patients’ comforts for the hospital itself.
On the day, 20 teams took part, with Finn Harps winning an exciting final against Letterkenny Rovers on penalties after the game finished 2-2 in ordinary time. The football was played in typical post-seasonal fashion, capturing the spirit of what the event was all about. One commentator and participant, Gavin Flanagan, on the event’s Facebook page said; ‘what a fantastic days craic, well organised, great craic, great bunch or lads, mixture of expertise, age, youth, etc was fantastic.’
At the presentation of the trophy in the Central Bar, Ciaran Corry spoke about the reasons for holding such an event; ‘It is important that people know of the plans to close this unique and successful health service. It is not being adequately replaced by the Programme for Centralised Cancer Services, despite what Mary Harney and the government state. St Luke’s Hospital is an existing centre of excellence for cancer treatment for people from Donegal who would otherwise have to travel to Belfast of Galway on a daily basis. As a patient there, I experienced the holistic healing effects that such a facility can give to people, something that an ordinary hospital cannot manufacture no matter how excellent the medical facilities are in such places. St Luke’s is an almost spiritual place, much more than just a medical centre and to close it, just for the perceived financial value of the site, is a disgrace on this government‘s outdated thinking. The decision needs to be rescinded and we are hoping that events such as this will raise awareness so that people will ask politicians who will be knocking on their doors in the near future looking for votes, to leave St Luke’s alone and not to change the wonderful service it already gives to cancer sufferers and their families.’
The St Luke’s football event raised over €2,500 and Ciaran also thanked the many sponsors who supported it. These included Boal’s Goals, who did not charge for use of their facilites, Michael Blaney of the Central Bar, for refreshments and entertainment afterwards, as well as the sponsors of the raffle prizes; Cash4U, Arena 7, Brewery Bar, Harvey’s Point Hotel, Kernan’s Supermarket, Ruth’s Chemist, Letterkenny Community Centre, DPD and the Fordes, Nikita Burke and Donegal Sports, Patrick Guildea and the Courtyard Pharmacy.
The event was also attended by the ‘Save St. Luke’s Campaign’ PRO, Enid O’Dowd, who has written a book on the issue called ‘Cancer in a Cold Climate’. The actor, Marion O’Dwyer, of ‘Ballykissangel’ and ‘Agnes Browne’ fame, also travelled especially to support the event.
Suggestions are urgently needed for activities in 2011. The general election which initially was to have taken place in late January will now not take place until March and maybe the government will hang on longer to maximise pension payments. The longer the election is delayed, the greater the risk to St Luke’s.
Our letter to the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) with a list of questions about the closure process has not even been acknowledged a month later! The NCCP plans to HALF the number of linear accelerators at St Luke’s by the end of March 2011.
Suggestions – blog here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 087 6395790