‘CANCER treatment is not just about chemotherapy, it’s about the totality of care patients receive’, said Professor Rajnish Gupta, director of cancer services at the University Hospital in Limerick.
Speaking at the relaunch of their cancer support centre on the grounds of the hospital in Raheen, Prof Gupta said they see 800 new patients a year in medical oncology, and up to 500 new radiotherapy patients a year.
The two most predominant types of cancer they deal with are breast and bowel cancer.
“The moratorium of staffing imposed by the Health Service Executive has had a huge affect on us; we have lost staff, and we are at times struggling, but we won’t compromise people’s treatment or care,” said Prof Gupta, the consultant medical oncologist and director of cancer services.
He said with staff working 11 hours a day, more resources are needed. “If funding came along with permission to employ more staff I’d be delighted, but there’s no point giving me money if I can’t employ people, and that’s where the difficulty lies,” he said.
The cancer centre was built in 2001, with £900,000, while £100,000 was allocated for the cancer support centre, built 12 years ago, in a separate and private building nearby. Additional funding was made available through the Mid-Western Cancer Foundation.
He said the support centre is equally vital to their work, and represents “the difference between the clinical and non clinical care”, caring for the emotional and psychological well-being of patients, which also contributes to their overall health.
“The environment is different, and the ethos is slightly different. Sometimes people just focus on chemotherapy or radiotherapy; they don’t focus on the totality of care - like how do they talk to their partner or children about this. It’s often left behind.
“If you can’t support people emotionally or psychologically we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing over there,” he said pointing to the cancer treatment centre.
“The emotional and psychological well-being of a person is not the icing on the cake, it’s not the nice bit of treatment - it’s part of it.”
In addition, he said they have doubled the support provided by psychologists to patients - which has been funded by the Mid-Western Cancer Foundation, not the HSE.
The centre offers free participation to events to anyone who has had cancer, such as tai chi, mindfulness, a walking club, crafts, reiki, reflexology, and their choir composed of cancer survivors, called Something to Sing About.
Prof Gupta, who says he is a man who is never satisfied and always believes you can do better, said he wants to “get back to the quality of care that I’m happy with”.
The Limerick cancer support centre is affiliated with the Irish Cancer Society, which has relationships with 71 groups and support centres around the country.
Dorothy Thomas, of the Irish Cancer Society, presented a plaque of affiliation to Prof Gupta, as the centre has lived up to the guidelines they set out. In fact, she said the Limerick support centre is “at the top of the league”.
Cathaoirleach Kevin Sheahan paid tribute to Prof Gupta and his team at the hospital for providing this “invaluable service”.
“It’s not until you walk through the doors of the centre, or speak to some of those patients that have attended the centre that you can truly understand or appreciate the significance of the work that is carried out there,” he said.
“Cancer affects all of us, either directly or indirectly through a friend or family member at some time in our lives.
“While cancer services throughout Ireland continue to improve , the prevention and reduction of incidence of this disease has become a priority.”
A women’s cancer support group takes place on the third Wednesday of each month, and a men’s cancer support group meets on the second Wednesday of each month.
Further details, contact 061-485163