Irish Cancer Society spends €320,000 on transporting patients to hospital
The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) spent more than €320,000 last year offsetting travel expenses incurred by patients going to hospital for treatment.
The money was used to pay transport costs including hiring buses and to cover overnight accommodation for those forced to travel lengthy distances of up to four hours for treatment.
ICS head of services Donal Buggy said the bill was expected to be higher this year.
In 2014, the charity's financial support programme provided just over €1.5m in funding to 2,368 cancer patients. Of this, 21pc, or €320,000, went towards transport.
Accessing treatment has become an issue since the creation of the cancer centres of excellence that reduced the number of hospitals where certain types of treatment such as radio- therapy are carried out.
Mr Buggy said that while the society fully supported the centralisation of services, there were issues around coordinating appointments to reduce the journeys patients were forced to take.
Help was needed even in urban areas, and the ICS volunteer driver programme took 916 patients to 8,265 treatments last year. The service is available through 15 hos- pitals in Dublin, Sligo, Donegal, Limerick, Galway, Tullamore, Waterford, Cork and Kerry.
"Where the issues have arisen is the centralisation of cancer services, which we are fully supportive of," said Mr Buggy.
"But it raises the issue of coordination of treatment and a coordinated approach to patient issues which may not have been addressed at the time when services were centralised.
"If a patient is travelling to hospital, services need to be coordinated so they see everyone on one day to help ease the burden on travel and transport. If you are travelling on multiple occasions, it doesn't help the process of getting better."
Accommodation is available at two hospitals, St Luke's in Dublin and Galway, but more could be provided, said Mr Buggy.
"Radiotherapy services are expensive and centralised and involve a 15-minute appointment every day for up to six weeks," he added.
"Free parking would have an immediate impact, putting the patient at the centre of treatment. There's a few simple things like that which would make a significant difference."