The issue of travel for those suffering from cancer for treatment to Belfast from Derry has long been a contentious one.
Withe opening of a new radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin soon, a lot of that strain will be alleviated, but an overlap of treatment in Belfast will remain for sometime.
An organisation called Northern Irish Cancer Care has since 2012 been providing travel for those needing cancer treatment completely free of charge. The group has a presence in a charity shop at 90 Spencer Road in the Waterside where the sale of all sorts of goods helps to fund the organisation. The shop is always on the lookout for goods of all sorts to sell on and say they are also willing to listen to fundraising ideas from anyone who cares to call in and chat to them.
Jason Hughes is one of the drivers of the bus that ferries patients to and from their treatment sessions. He started Northern Irish Cancer Care following the passing of his mother four years ago. The transport service they provide is a door to door one. The vehicle used is fully equipped in terms of medical support and is registered with police as a ‘blue light’ vehicle in vase of emegencies.
“This is a service for people who are not sick enough to merit having an ambulance to travel for treatment but who are too sick to drive themselves.
“It helps to take some of the strain away from the health service in the western area. It’s a free service but people can choose to make a donation if they wish but are not obliged to do so at all. It stops people having to get a bus from Derry to Belfast, then get a taxi to and from the treatment and having to repeat the whole process on the way back again. We would deal with around 30 patients a week,” said Jason.
Jason began Northern Irish Cancer Care around four years ago following the death of his mother from cancer. The organisation is regulated by a committee of dedicated volunteers and is registered with the HMRC and NICVA.
Jason Hughes said that the organisation receives great help from local businesses across the city. Whilst primarily based in Derry the group will also provide travel for people from other North West toewns such as Strabane and Limavady if they present themselves at Altnagelvin for pick-up. Running the service of course costs money for the upkeep and maintenance of the vehicle as well as fuel so of course all donations will be gratefull received. Anyone wishing to help out in anyway should contact the premises on Spencer Road by calling 02871341620.