Monday 11 December 2017

'We've been forgotten' - cancer patients face gruelling four-hour journey for treatment on bus that isn't government funded

Cancer survivor Anita Murray featured in the TG4 documentary
Cancer survivor Anita Murray featured in the TG4 documentary
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

A powerful TG4 documentary brought to light the struggles of cancer patients in Donegal, who face a four-hour journey to University Hospital Galway twice a week on a bus that isn't supported by the government.

Turas na hAilse, which aired on Wednesday, focused on Donegal's 'Cancer Bus', a service entirely supported by volunteers and funds raised by the local community.

The service carries patients from all over Donegal on the four hour journey to Galway, as UHG is the closest centre to provide lifesaving cancer treatment.

However, the service's founder Eamonn McDevitt expressed his fear that the service may be unable to continue to transport patients without government support, as it currently relies on the generosity of the local community.

"It's here today but if you asked me would it be around in six months time, I don't know. If Donegal people keep fundraising and giving us money we'll be running and if it stops we won't be," said McDevitt, speaking on the documentary.

"People are volunteers. We have three drivers here, and myself. The government give us nothing, the Irish Cancer Society give us nothing, the HSE give us nothing.

Tereasa Ni Ghallachoir featured on the TG4 documentary
Tereasa Ni Ghallachoir featured on the TG4 documentary

"Every penny comes from ordinary people giving us money. Without those people, with the greatest will in the world, we couldn't do it without those people. If we hadn't the money to put the diesel in there we couldn't turn the wheels. That's where we're at."

The documentary featured Donegal natives who use the service to travel to Galway for radiation treatment each week, who say they've been "forgotten" by the government.

Tereasa Ni Ghallachoir, who regularly used the service during her cancer treatment, said Donegal people should be able to receive treatment in Letterkenny Hospital. Although they praised the staff of Inis Aoibhinn, the Galway care home in which they stay during their treatment, the patients urged the government to support new treatment facilities closer to home.

"I think it's terrible because the Government should be investing money in the bus service."

"It's terrible we have to come down here. There's nothing at home for us. There's no alternative but to get the bus.

"If everything was as it should be we'd be travelling to Letterkenny. The government aren't looking after the people of Donegal. They've forgotten about the people of Donegal really," she said.

Anita Murray, who shared her breast cancer story on the documentary, said: "It's hard on people from Donegal to come such a distance. It's a tough road when you're told you have cancer, you think 'I'm going to die, this is the way it's going to be'."

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