Health authority speaks out over radiotherapy unit

DUE TO the negative press reports concerning the delay in opening the new radiotherapy unit in Faro, the Administração Regional de Saúde do Algarve (ARS Algarve), the Algarve regional health authority, has issued a press statement to clarify the facts relating to this health facility. The unit has been eagerly awaited for some time, as currently cancer patients are being forced to travel to Lisbon to receive the specialist treatment they need, a situation that is clearly very unsatisfactory.

The Ministry for Health has been blamed in the media and heavily criticised by cancer support groups for allegedly blocking the opening of the radiotherapy unit. The licensing of the unit involves, both directly and indirectly, the Ministry for Health and, for many, it is seen as being to blame for the bureaucracy affecting its opening.

The Associação Oncológica do Algarve (AOA), the charitable organisation headed by surgeon Dr. Santos Pereira, is the owner of the facility that has been built in Faro using European Union funding and capital raised by the association itself. The statement explains that, after obtaining authorisation to install the medical equipment that is necessary to operate the unit, the AOA contracted a private company called Quadrantes/CRMN to set up and manage the equipment.

According to the information supplied to The Resident by ARS Algarve, this private company commenced dealing with the licensing process in November of 2005, in conjunction with the Direcção Geral de Saúde. The Direcção Geral de Saúde then referred the process to the Instituto Tecnológico e Nuclear (ITN), in order for the necessary validations to be obtained for the operation of a radiotherapy unit, in accordance with the EURATOM Directive, the legislation that regulates such activities. This Directive considers the location, installation planning, radiological protection of the therapy rooms, measurements of the protection barriers, specific requirements for radiotherapy facilities and various security criteria.

According to information that has been obtained by the ARS Algarve from the Direcção de Saúde and the ITN, the process is proceeding according to schedule and, currently, the final report is awaited from the ITN. Depending on the conclusions and final evaluation from the ITN, the licensing process can be concluded according to the law.

ARS Algarve insists in its statement that, “the Ministry for Health is not, in any shape or form, blocking the opening of the radiotherapy unit”. It concludes its explanation by saying: “The legal process and the Directive’s recommendations are being followed in order to protect the health of the workers, the population in general and the patients, in light of the use of radiation, albeit for therapeutic purposes.”