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then, the AOA has been disputing it. Now, as it has had no response, desperation has led the organisation to expose the matter to the media in order to gain greater support for the problem.
So far, 1.25 million euros has gone into building the unit in Vale dos Carneiros, with funds raised by the AOA, the region’s 16 municipalities and donations from the European Union. Mamamaratona runners raised funds last month for complementary equipment. In addition, top level medical professionals have already been sourced to run the unit.
However, with the prospect that it will only run for five years, the cost of the building is not justified and the AOA know that recruitment could be severely hampered, as staff cannot be expected to leave existing positions for a project that would only offer short term security. Even worse, due to a delay in receiving the authorisation to import the radiotherapy equipment, the investor who is covering the cost of the machinery and apparatus, valued at 2.5 million euros, looks likely to pull out.
The public-private partnership, that the DGS says is the competition, is the proposed new Algarve Hospital, planned at Parque das Cidades, the stadium complex built for Euro 2004. However, this project is yet to be formally announced, and if construction does go ahead, the hospital will not open until 2010.
As the AOA has said that its unit will not proceed if the decision from the DGS is not reversed, what will become of the cancer sufferers in the Algarve who need accessible radiotherapy treatment?
A volunteer at the AOA, who herself has suffered from cancer, commented: “It is a very desperate state of affairs as many people in the Algarve who are very ill have to travel for five hours, five times a week in order to have radiotherapy treatment in Lisbon. A 15 minute radiotherapy treatment in itself is tiring, but add to that the travelling, waiting for the treatment and then waiting again for an available ambulance to transport you back to the Algarve – many patients give up the treatment as they are just too exhausted.”
The matter has now been brought to the attention of the President of the Junta Metropolitana do Algarve (AMAL), Macário Correia, in the hope that he can lobby for an alteration to the decision. When asked about the issue, he said: “The operational time scale stipulated for the unit does not make any sense. This was a decision made without any thought, by individuals without any notion of reality.”
A source from the AOA informed The Resident that if a letter is not received from the Minister for Health offering a longer time frame for the operation of the unit, the AOA will be protesting to the European Court.
Dr. Santos Pereira commented: “If the DGS comes to its senses, I believe we will have the radiotherapy unit functioning by the first quarter of 2005.” Finally, he added, “I have every confidence that the problem will be overcome because there are 16 municipalities involved in the project, as well as the European Union, and it is in the interests of the people of the region that this problem is solved.”
On the day of going to press, The Resident learned that a meeting will be taking place with the investor involved in the project and there are positive signs that the funds are still available.