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.