Minister ‘must fund the repairs or get a new bus’
MINISTER for Health, Simon Harris has been asked to intervene to provide funding so that the designated bus transporting cancer patients from Sligo to Galway can be put back on the road.
The bus, on the road since 2011, is no longer in service and now Cllr Declan Bree says the Minister for Health needs to provide the necessary funding to put the bus back into service or to replace it with a new one.
In 2011, in the aftermath of the transfer of the breast cancer service from Sligo to University Hospital Galway, cancer survivors in Sligo successfully campaigned to have a specially designed bus to transport cancer patients to Galway.
“Before the new purpose built bus was purchased patients had to endure the gruelling round trip to Galway on buses which were totally unsuitable and ill-equipped to address the needs and comfort of cancer patients.” Cllr Bree said.
“Thanks to the lobbying and successful campaign led by cancer survivors Catriona McGoldrick and Valerie Finan and others, and an undertaking from the then Minister for Health, funding was eventually provided for the new purpose built bus.
“The 28 seater bus was specially designed, with cancer patients themselves being consulted as to its requirements.
“It was custom fitted with reclining seats, a modern toilet, washing facilities and air conditioning.
“It has served the people of this community well in the intervening period.
“However, I am led to believe that maintenance costs for the upkeep of the vehicle have risen significantly in recent times leading to the bus being taken out of service.
“The buses currently in use on the Sligo- Galway route are not purpose built and in this context funding is now required to either upgrade the existing bus or replace it with a new bus.
“It strikes me that a new purpose built bus would be the most economical method to resolve the problem.
“People are most vulnerable when they are in the midst of cancer treatment and they cannot be expected to campaign and lobby for the provision of such a service.
“Ireland is a modern and wealthy democracy which can well afford to provide such facilities for cancer patients.
“I will be raising this issue as a matter of urgency at next weeks Council meeting and I have no doubt but that other councillors will be doing likewise.
“It is my view that the Minister for Health must now take the necessary steps to ensure that adequate resources are put in place to either upgrade the existing bus or replace it with a new bus.” said Cllr Bree.
Gerry McManus of Friends of Sligo University Hospital at the wheel of the bus when it was launched in April 2011.