SERVICE users of the Glennane Breast Cancer Unit shared their heart wrenching stories as Knitted Knockers launched their petition against the proposals to change breast cancer services.
The 'Save your local breast clinic' petition, which has now reached 5,947 signatures, was set up by the charity in response to the Department of Health's public consultation.
The 12-week consultation proposes to consolidate breast assessment locations to Altnagelvin Hospital, Antrim Area Hospital and a greater Belfast location, likely to be the Ulster Hospital.
That means that services in Craigavon Area Hospital would no longer be available.
Knitted Knockers, who provide free hand knitted breast prosthetics, have been campaigning across the Southern Trust area since the public consultation began on March 25.
Joanne Harris from the charity explained that Thursday's (April 11) petition launch in The Sean Hollywood Arts Centre had an “amazing turn out” and allowed those in attendance to discuss the possible effects the consolidation of breast assessment services may have.
The Newry event was hosted by Soroptimist International Newry, Mourne and District, while attendees included the Chairman of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Councillor Mark Murnin, local councillors, MLAs, Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady and Union representatives.
“Newry, Mourne and Down councillors have been active in addressing the 12-week consultation period, which falls during Purdah,” stated Joanne.
“We are requesting councillors to lobby for an extension to this deadline in order to allow for panel discussions to be held with the Department of Health and other officials.
“There was an amazing turn out of people for such short notice of a public meeting and everyone discussed at length the affect of the Health Department Consultation, with extremely good points coming through from the audience.”
Commenting after Thursday's petition launch, Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said that current proposals in the breast assessment consultation could result in the entire area south of Belfast with no service and encouraged everyone to respond to the proposals.
“There is a great fear that the Southern Trust area, which includes Daisy Hill and Craigavon hospitals, will lose it’s breast cancer assessment services,” he said.
“Any changes to the breast cancer assessment must improve services while ensuring they are accessible, timely and delivering better outcomes for patients.
“We need to ensure breast assessment services are accessible, timely and deliver better outcomes for patients in this area.
“It is intolerable to think that removing breast assessment services locally would leave women and men living in this area having to travel to places like Antrim Area Hospital or Belfast hospitals to access these life saving services.”
Knitted Knockers of NI provides free hand knitted breast prosthetics, swimming knockers and a post surgery comfort kit which consists of a cushion, drain bags and soap massage bar - all free for women recovering from breast cancer.
The charity also set up a breast cancer only group called 'The Clubhouse', which is a social and creative space just for breast cancer survivors.
Knitted Knockers also supplies Newry Hospice with free prosthetics for their mastectomy bra fitting service.
The knitted prosthetics are now available at The Quays' Debenhams store and Newry Library.
Just call in to either the library or Debenhams' bra department and collect your free Knitted Knocker.
You can also order directly from Knitted Knockers and they can be delivered to your local library.
To order contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page @knittedknockersofni.