Good afternoon everybody.
Its good to be with you all here today in Waterford.
As a City and County, we have made real progress in recent times. Better roads, better lifestyles, better services, more jobs, more housing are all to be seen here in Waterford.
Nonetheless, there is always a need to keep progressing, keep investing, keep modernising, particularly for health needs.
The success of our economy is affording us the opportunity to deliver real improvements in health here in the region, in particular the Waterford Regional Hospital. More nurses, more doctors, more treatments have made a difference for the better. But we must do more.
I want to see the best cancer care available in Waterford and todays launch is a very important and exciting move forward in that regard.
The Whitfield Clinic is an exciting departure for the City of Waterford and for the entire South-East region. The reality of radiotherapy services being rolled-out within 18 months is to be hailed as a positive development.
I am delighted that Whitfield has confirmed to me that they will treat all patients from day one, both public and private.
The provision of high quality radiotherapy services in the region is a very important issue for all the people of the South East. The involvement of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre ensures that the facility here in Waterford will rank among the best available globally. Accessibility to the new hospital will be enhanced with the completion this Summer of the Outer Ring Road that will ultimately link with the Waterford City Bypass.
A big step in delivering radiotherapy to the South East has been taken. I will be working to make sure that public access to these world-class facilities will be funded by the Health Services Executive.
Increasingly, public patients are benefiting from the services offered by private hospitals. Significant work has been carried out by private hospitals on behalf of the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is estimated that in excess of 11,000 patients, through a €39million investment have benefited under the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
I will continue to work with my colleague, the Tanaiste and Minister for Health to ensure public patients have full access to radiotherapy in Waterford. It should be acknowledged that with continued economic success, many people can now afford to purchase private health insurance. Approximately 47 percent, or close to half of our adult population have private health insurance.
But access to high quality oncology care should not be restricted to those that have the ability to pay. It must be available on a needs basis. In that context, I will be urging both the Health Service Executive and Euro Care International to agree terms that will allow a steady throughput of public patients through the doors of the Whitfield Clinic.
The opening of this state of the art facility should not and will not dilute my desire for improved oncology services at Waterford Regional Hospital. I will continue to lobby at Cabinet for increased investment in Waterford Regional Hospital.
Today marks an important milestone in the campaign for radiotherapy in the South East. The launch of the Whitfield Clinic and the involvement of global leaders in cancer care ensure that the best resources available on a worldwide level will be available here in Waterford. The campaign will be judged to have been completely successful when publicly funded access is available. I am working to ensure that outcome in the interests of all the people of Waterford and the South East.
Finally, let me congratulate Dr Jim and Mrs Mary Madden, Noel Daly and the entire team here for their achievement today. I look forward to Whitfield playing a leading role in the open provision of high quality healthcare in the South East over the years ahead.