Debate intensifies over breast center closures in Northern Ireland

A plan to close two breast cancer assessment centers in Northern Ireland has prompted new concerns about how women will receive follow-up tests after screening, according to a 16 April report by BBC News.

Under the plan from the Northern Ireland Department of Health, breast assessment centers would close at Belfast City Hospital and Craigavon Area Hospital. Patients are referred to breast assessment centers for additional tests after an initial screening at a local health trust. The proposal does not affect breast screening services, according to the BBC report.

The closure of those two facilities would reduce to three the number of breast assessment centers. Facilities at Altnagelvin, Antrim, and Ulster hospitals would remain open. Opponents of the plan said the reduction would force patients to travel farther for their examinations.

The BBC News report quoted retired physician Dr. Gywneth Hinds as questioning why the Department of Health would close the center at Belfast City Hospital. She added that the proposal was not transparent with respect to how the closures would affect breast services in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson at the health department said the plan was the result of several years' work by the breast assessment project board, according to BBC News.

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