A Markethill businesswoman – diagnosed with breast cancer last year – has called for the public to rally round and do all in their power to save the assessment unit at Craigavon Area Hospital.
Ann Marie Monaghan, who owns Annie’s Blooms in the town, said the doctors and nurses at the Co Armagh unit had been so supportive after she received the devastating news.
And as the breast cancer assessment unit at the hospital is now threatened with closure – as part of a centralisation shake-up of breast cancer services – she has asked people to unite and insist the powers-that-be rethink their plans.
It was on Monday of last week that Armagh I reported the unit was under threat.
Proposals had gone out to consultation which would see the number of such centres in Northern Ireland cut from five to three.
But both Craigavon and Belfast City Hosptial could lose their assessment centres.
The news caused outrage on a local level, especially amongst patients who had received care and treatment above and beyond at Craigavon.
Now Ann Marie is hoping that all will band together and make their voices heard by responding to the consultation.
And she is happy to take letters supporting the unit with her on her next appointment to make sure the depth of feeling is made known in the hope that those tasked with making decisions actually sit up and listen to the people.
Ann Marie said the service was “so important” to herself and those many, many others.
She told Armagh I : “I was told on the 1st of June 2018 that I had Stage 2 breast cancer.
“I couldn’t have done without Dr Mathers and the breast care nurses Eimear, Lucy Katie and Helen. They are great.
“I am still going every week and there is no way I could have travelled to any of the other hospitals.”
Ann Marie said she had attended the Glenanne Unit – the specialised unit dealing with breast cancer at Craigavon Hospital – last week.
She explained: “My breast care nurse and doctor was telling me that they were trying to close the unit down and would I mind filling out one of their forms.”
Ann Marie said she had taken four forms to fill in as part of consultation exercise, but she believes these have been made intentionally “difficult to understand”.
She added: “I was saying to my breast doctor this week and if we can get as many letters as possible to state why you don’t want this unit to close it will hopefully keep it open.
“You have until 30th May to get letters in, so what I’m looking for is for people to write a letter to keep the Glenanne Unit open. That would be great.
“As I still attend it I could take the letters with me and hand them in.”
Anyone who can please show your support – you can forward letters to Annie’s Blooms, 98 Main Street, Markethill, Co Armagh, BT601 PL.
Ann Marie said: “If any of you have been unfortunate like myself you know how nice the doctors and breast care nurses are. They can’t do enough for you. When you’re not well you don’t want to be travelling very far, especially not to one of the other hospitals.
“The change in breast services at Craigavon will mean the complete removal of the breast diagnostic centre from Craigavon Area Hospital. That means the complete removal of all out-patients breast services requiring a breast diagnosis, both benign and malignant. Instead, all patients must travel to one of the proposed breast centres.”
If the proposals go through these would be located at Altnagelvin, Antrim and the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.
Ann Marie appealed for people to bombard those who have come up with these proposals with as much opposition as possible – and to put pen to paper now before it is too late!
“Let’s get as many letters as possible,” she urged. “We cannot allow these valuable service to be withdrawn.”