The West of Ireland’s largest cancer care support organisation, Cancer Care West, has reported that demands for the services it provides across a seven county region stretching from Donegal to Clare reached “an all-time high”, last year.
Cancer Care West launched its annual report recently as the charity reported a significant increase in demand for all of its services in 2017. Over 3,000 people accessed the charity’s residential, long term accommodation and cancer support services, an increase of over 14 per cent on the previous year. Cancer Care West attributes this increase in demand to the rise in the number of people receiving a cancer diagnosis and an expansion to the range and reach of the services being provided by the charity.
Speaking at the report launch, Richard Flaherty, CEO of Cancer Care West stated: “Cancer Care West has had an extremely busy year in 2017, with record numbers accessing our entire range of 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 we have seen a substantial increase in demand for our Psycho-Oncology and counselling services. In response to the increasing demands for the counselling service we provide to inpatients at University Hospital Galway, we appointed a full time psychologist to this role in early 2017, with over 440 patients receiving counselling at the hospital bedside during the year. Also the opening of our new Cancer Support Centre in Letterkenny helped us reach more people who need our services."
During 2017 Cancer Care West provided support to over 250 cancer patients from Mayo, covering all areas of the county, from Ballina, to Bellmullet and Claremorris. Supports were provided to patients and families mainly through the charity's residential facility Inis Aoibhinn and also through the nearby Support Centre located in Galway. Inis Aoibhinn makes a difficult time easier and provides a “home from home” for patients undergoing radiotherapy for a number of weeks in UCHG.
Josie Hynes, Operations Manager for Inis Aoibhinn, added: "Peer Support is in abundance in Inis Aoibhinn and many of our residents make fantastic friends during their time staying here, many a conversation is had about local parish football in Mayo and Mid-West updates are never too far away, all of this helps the time fly by and helps make Inis Aoibhinn a truly relaxing, special sanctuary for our guests.
"The Support Centre provides a wide variety of therapeutic and clinical services to patients and also for some family members, throughout the year lots of people from Mayo have experienced the benefits of having access to these wonderful supports."
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.
The report also details the charity’s financial performance during year ended 2017 and reported fundraising income of €1.187m, up slightly from the previous year. Richard Flaherty added that Cancer Care West takes great pride in the fact that all of its services are provided entirely free of charge to patients and their families, saying: "We would not have been able to help the record number of people that accessed our services during 2017 without the continuous generosity of our supporters for which we are enormously grateful."
This week the organisation renewed its appeal to the public to be generous in supporting its fund raising campaigns during the remainder of 2018 and into 2019 quoting in its annual report one former resident of Inis Aoibhinn who said of her stay there: "Staying at Inis Aoibhinn was like a ‘Home from Home’, you are made feel so welcome and while each of us staying there have a different diagnosis, we are all in it together. The camaraderie between each and every one of us was wonderful. What a priceless asset it was to stay at Inis Aoibhinn."