Demand for the services provided by the West of Ireland’s largest cancer care support organisation reached an all-time high last year, according to its annual report.
Cancer Care West, which supported 3,400 people affected by cancer in 2018, has seen its numbers double in the last five years. The charity, which covers a seven county region stretching from Donegal to Clare, reported a 15 per cent increase in demand for its residential, long term accommodation, and cancer support services last year compared to 2017.
The organisation attributes this to the rise in the number of people receiving a cancer diagnosis and the expansion in the range and reach of the services being provided.
Speaking at the report launch, Richard Flaherty, the CEO of Cancer Care West said the charity has grown dramatically over the last number of years.
“We have seen the number of people we support double in the last five years alone. In 2013 we supported just over 1,600 people and in 2018 that figure grew to over 3,400. The expansion of our services into Donegal along with the increased demand and range of services offered at our Galway Cancer support centre and within UHG has resulted in record numbers accessing our services.
“Inis Aoibhinn, our residential facility at University Hospital Galway, operated at 100 per cent occupancy, providing more than 9,500 bed nights to patients and families undergoing radiotherapy treatment. Our Cancer Support Centre in Galway received over 7,100 visits throughout the year and our new centre in Letterkenny provided support to over 500 people affected by cancer in its first full year in operation.”
Mr Flaherty stated that as cancer affects more people it is imperative that the charity has the resources and space to ensure that as many people as possible have access to its services. In response to future needs, Cancer Care West expanded its Galway support centre to include a second floor at the beginning of 2018, with a fully equipped gym and play therapy room for children. The centre’s footprint expanded from 3,000 to 6,000 square foot within a year.
“A cancer diagnosis can be a very stressful time for all family members and difficulties frequently arise for children,” he outlined. “Included in the expansion of our centre we have created a dedicated play therapy room, which will enable us to offer a comprehensive service to children and families affected by cancer. The importance of physical exercise for cancer patients during and after treatment is now well recognised. Our new rehabilitation gym allows us to tailor individual and group exercise plans as part of a wider survivorship programme offered in the centre.”
The importance of understanding the psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis, and providing emotional and other supports to those affected, is a key priority for Cancer Care West. The charity’s model of community psycho-oncology offers a novel way of providing a wide range of professional psychological support to people in the community as well as to patients in hospital. As Cancer Care West offers a service in both the hospital and the community, it is able to provide continuity of psychological support to patients and their families. This psycho-oncology support is not the only unique service provided by Cancer Care West - Inis Aoibhinn is the only residential facility of its kind operated by a charity in Ireland.
Dr Helen Greally, the director of support services at Cancer Care West said that when the organisation moved to its support centre at 72 Seamus Quirke Road 10 years ago, they did not envisage the way the service would grow and develop.
“We have moved from psychological counselling to cancer rehabilitation; from individual counselling only to group intervention and support groups; and from services in the support centre to providing a unique bridge between Galway University Hospital and community cancer support. We have been privileged to support cancer patients and their families at all points in the cancer journey from diagnosis to end of treatment and end of life care.
“We are also in the unique position to provide support to the entire age profile from two years to old age. Our team at the support centre include oncology nurses, clinical and counselling psychologists, physiotherapists and administration support. We also have the expertise of cancer support specialists including complementary therapists, yoga instructors, and other professionals with many years’ experience in cancer support. If you affected by cancer, drop into the centre and you will be greeted very warmly by one of our wonderful volunteers. We believe in equitable patient access which is why all our services are free of charge.”
Cancer Care West’s annual report also detailed its financial performance during 2018 and outlined that it received €1.165 million from fundraising. The charity relies on voluntary donations for more than two thirds of its income. Richard Flaherty says Cancer Care West takes great pride in the fact that all its services are provided free of charge to patients and their families.
“We would not have been able to help the record number of people that accessed our services during 2018 without the continuous generously of our supporters, for which we are enormously grateful. But the reality is we need significant additional income going forward to fund these additional services.”
This week the organisation renewed its appeal to the public to support its fundraising campaigns during the remainder of this year and into 2020 saying ensure that the charity can help the “ever increasing numbers” which need its support.