A Gift of Time

The Irish Cancer Society has launched a new initiative to make sure that cancer patients do not miss their appointments because of transport difficulties. A pilot scheme Care to Drive began three weeks ago with volunteer drivers transporting patients from their homes to hospital appointments. The scheme has been devised in response to an anticipated greater need for transport when cancer care is centralised into the eight designated specialist centres established under the National Cancer Care Strategy. The hope is that it will go some way towards allaying the fears of cancer patients who face difficulties in travelling to appointments.

The new pilot scheme was launched on 16th June 2008, by Prof Tom Keane, the director of the State’s new Cancer Control Programme and is modelled on the successful Canadian Cancer Society Transportation Service which is already well established. It is providing a free transport service for cancer patients from south Dublin, Wicklow and north Wexford who are attending St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin. The patients are pre-selected according to the criteria of the programme, to receive a personalised service on a one-to-one basis. The Irish Cancer Society has recruited and trained 111 volunteer drivers who will provide transport in their own vehicles to the hospital. A petrol allowance is included in the arrangement so that no volunteer is left out of pocket but time is given for free. One of the hidden benefits of the scheme in Canada is that many of the volunteer drivers are former cancer patients so the system works very well by providing social support and shared experience for patients and drivers.

The pilot phase will run for twelve months and once it has been evaluated, it is hoped that it will be possible to roll out the service nationally during 2009. The Care to Drive scheme is not intended to replace the transportation service already provided by the HSE but rather to provide a more palatable service for those patients who do not feel well enough to travel by public transport. It is an excellent concept and the Irish Cancer Society deserves great credit for getting such a well-supervised scheme up and running. We tend to live very busy lives these days where time is a precious commodity and volunteer services have suffered the consequences. This scheme is a fantastic opportunity for those people who are in a position to help, to give back something to society. Your time has the potential to become a precious gift and I would anticipate that the patients will not be the only ones to benefit from a lift.

For more information about the scheme, click on the Care to Drive link above or contact Dorothy Thomas, Patient Support Services Coordinator at the Irish Cancer Society at 01-2310596.

4 Responses to A Gift of Time

  1. Grannymar says:

    That is a terrific service.

    Northern Ireland Hospice Care provide a similar service for people on their books who need transport for hospital appointments. The volunteers collect and deliver the patients from home to hospital and back again. Some wonderful friendships have developed so both sides benifit.

  2. Baino says:

    What a great idea . . .we have local community nursing that have their own mini buses not just for cancer patients but to help anyone who can’t get transport to make their regular visits to hospital (those on dialysis for instance). Although I suspect it’s not a widespread practice. Wouldn’t it be great if we could expand an idea like that to car pool and get more commuter cars off the road as well! If there was something like that here, I’d be happy to volunteer as a driver.

  3. Ellie says:

    That’s awesome! I’d love to help out with something like that when/if we come home-provided I get my full licence soon 🙂 thanks for putting up info about this!

  4. Steph says:

    Thanks! Everyone

    Yes! Full marks to the Irish Cancer Society for implementing this pilot scheme.

    As Grannymar has identified, there are duel benefits with this scheme. People who’ve experienced serious illness either themselves or through a close relative, can identify with the stresses involved and have much to offer those going through similar difficult times. It is hugely rewarding to be able to ease someone else’s journey through cancer.

    Baino
    – having attended many, many medical appointments over the years, I’ve often wondered at the idea of setting up a patient escort service to help others cope better. It makes such sense to have a support network in place so that at least the worry element of transport, is taken out of the equation.

    Ellie – thanks! When I first heard about this scheme, the cynic in me said “oh yeah, here we go again. This is just another cost-saving measure from the HSE” but the more I thought about the idea, the more I could see how much it has to offer. In this day and age where community spirit is sadly being eroded, I think this well-supervised scheme offers a fantastic opportunity to get involved in a community activity where we can give something back to society. And everyone benefits.

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