Cancer Connect, which runs a transport service to Cork city hospitals from West Cork for people availing of radiotherapy, chemotherapy or any cancer treatment, is used by people from all walks of life.
Patients have been provided with free transport by a fleet of volunteer drivers, backed up by two eight-seater vehicles, since the service went on the road last April.
“Our service-users are male and female, from young people in their 20s to older people in their 80s,” said the service’s co-ordinator, Helen O’Driscoll.
“This service is free for everyone. We don’t means-test or have a minimum charge. It’s a cost-free service for the community, by the community.
“Contributions and donations are always welcome.”
The project, which is run under the West Cork Rural Transport scheme based in Bantry, was first mooted at a meeting in Church Cross outside Skibbereen, last January after locals saw a need for the service.
“The distances involved can be quite far — from Goleen to Cork city and back is a four-hour return journey for example — and if you were going for radiotherapy you could be going every day for seven weeks,” Ms O’Driscoll said.
Some people without their own transport were forced to go by bus, she said, and as a result of clashing timetables, often had to wait hours for the bus home following treatment.
“We are told by the hospital that many patients feel tired after radiotherapy while chemotherapy patients could feel nauseous and tired.
“Many of our passengers will be having both treatments at the same time. Imagine having to travel home on public transport for up to two hours after receiving that treatment.
“This is not about money but about the general difficulties of getting to the hospital,” she said.
The volunteer drivers provide the service in their own vehicles and are a mix of retirees, part-time workers and people out of work.
They generally each provide transport one day a month, although it can be more often than that. “They are all from the West Cork area,” Ms O’Driscoll said.
“We also have two eight-seater transport vehicles, one of which leaves from Goleen and the other from Castlestownbere every day. Our volunteer drivers bring people up at their own expense.
“We offer a minimum contribution towards petrol,” said Ms O’Driscoll, who said the scheme had attracted an incredible outpouring of goodwill since its inception.