The GHA’s Chemotherapy Day Unit at St Bernard’s Hospital was officially opened yesterday by the Chief Minister, and is now open for cancer patients needing Chemotherapy.

As from this week, all newly diagnosed cancer patients with solid tumours can be referred to the Unit to receive Chemotherapy on an out-patient basis from Tuesdays to Thursdays, 9am to 5pm.

The new Chemotherapy Unit contains five clinical couches, a Consultation room, a Drugs preparation room with a gowning area and a waiting and reception area. Additionally, the commissioned clinical oncology team from Xanit, who was successful in the tender and will be running the service, will see patients in Consultation and follow-up clinics; the team includes a Medical Oncologist, a Chemotherapy Nurse, and a Cytotoxic Pharmacist.

Following Government approval of the project, Mrs Margaret Ayling, who had long been wanting to assist in creating a chemotherapy facility in Gibraltar, contacted the Minister for Health and kindly offered to provide funding for the capital works and equipment. This has been provided in loving memory of her late husband, Leslie Ayling, and her parents Anthony and Lucia Buttigieg. The Unit will therefore carry the name of The Ayling-Buttigieg Chemotherapy Unit.

Minister for Health, Dr John Cortes, said he was delighted that Gibraltar was able, for the first time ever, to deliver this kind of treatment: “There is no doubt of the benefits to Gibraltar patients for the repatriation of Chemotherapy treatments to St Bernard’s Hospital. Patients presenting with solid malignant tumours no longer need travel to another country such as Spain or the UK in order to receive their Chemotherapy treatment. This removes the stress of travel and dependence on others for transport. The new Unit also means local, in-house support for cancer patients and family members. I would particularly like to thank Mrs Margaret Ayling, a long-time friend and most caring person, for her kindness and community spirit in providing such a kind gift to Gibraltar."

GHA’s Cancer Services Coordinator, Isobel Ellul, said: “The clearly added benefit to having our own Chemotherapy Unit means that weekly Oncology Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings will take place at St Bernard’s Hospital. This means that Radiology, Pathology, Oncology, Medical & Surgical Consultants and specialist nurses will discuss patients together and make holistic recommendations on treatment pathways. The Radiotherapy Oncologist from Clinica Radon will also be part of the team. This has its obvious advantages to patient care, especially from a communication point of view.

The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo said: “This is a red letter day for Gibraltar. For all those who need Chemotherapy, having the opportunity to have that treatment provided in Gibraltar is a huge step forward toward better care and better service. When we are ill, having to travel to receive much needed treatment is always an additional burden. In the case of Chemo, even if the distance has for some patients not been far, involving travel to the other side of the Bay, the notoriously unreliable frontier has caused stress to many when they least need it. So delivering on this manifesto commitment is a source not just of huge pride but also of massive satisfaction for the benefits that will attach to patients in need of this treatment. My thanks, of course, to Mrs Margaret Ayling who has been a friend for many years. I have very fond memories, as everyone who knew him will, of Mr Leslie Ayling who was an absolute gentleman with whom I had the pleasure to work. I am therefore delighted that we are able to count with Margaret's generous and selfless support in assisting in the establishment of this groundbreaking service to the Community as a whole. The whole nation will want to thanks Mrs Ayling for her philanthropy and assistance which has been altruistic and which is reflected in the naming of the suite after Leslie and Mrs Ayling's own parents. It is also true that the establishment of this service is further testament to the devotion and dedication of all staff of the GHA and in particular a further achievement of Minister John Cortes who has revolutionised the health service through the delivery of the innovative policies we have committed ourselves to in successive manifestos."