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26 May 2022

Can you spare two days per month to help cancer patients in Donegal?

Volunteer drivers are needed to bring Donegal cancer patients for treatment

Volunteer Driver Service

Volunteer drivers help cancer patients to attend treatment

The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) is appealing to people in Donegal who can spare just a few days each month to become volunteer drivers.

The society’s Volunteer Driver Service is a scheme whereby people use their own car to give a lift to a patient undergoing chemotherapy.

Cancer patients are often reliant on relatives or on public transport to bring them to hospital for treatment. But relatives are not always able to take time off, and travelling by bus after receiving a severe, and often nausea-inducing treatment such as some types of chemotherapy is far from ideal.

Being able to use the services of a volunteer driver can lift a huge amount of stress and worry from people who are undergoing cancer treatment.

A spokesperson for the ICS said: “Patients often find it hard to get to hospital because of transportation costs or they might not be feeling well enough to drive themselves because of their treatment.

“Volunteer drivers make this easier by providing a lift to and back from their appointment.

“The service is completely free for patients, and volunteers receive money from the Irish Cancer Society to pay for their petrol costs, road tolls and food while waiting for the patient.”

The service is particularly crucial in Donegal due to the rural spread of the population and the challenges of accessing public transport.

Those who wish to volunteer for the service are asked to commit to just two drives per month for a period of one years. Each ‘drive’ is a full day’s commitment on a weekday.

Drivers need to have their own roadworthy vehicle with valid car insurance, NCT and driving licence, and to have an active email address. 

All drivers will be garda vetted before being added to the service. 

Following an interview, successful drivers will receive full training in boundaries, confidentiality, data protection, etc. 

How does it work?

If a patient needs a driver, they make an appointment three working days in advance. The ICS dispatchers email out a list of drives available for the next week at 5pm on a Friday.

Over the weekend, drivers will see if they are available to commit to a drive, They then email the ICS identifying which drive is suitable to them.

The society assigns a shift to a driver. 

The ICS spokesperson explains: “On the Monday morning, the office will then start mixing and matching drivers. One driver is never partnered to one particular patient.

“We will email the driver the relevant patient details. The driver will need to contact the patient as soon as they receive their details to introduce themselves and re-confirm details of the drive.

“At the agreed time,  the driver will pick the patient up from the door of their home and drive them to the door of the hospital.

“The driver waits as the patient undergoes chemotherapy. About 30 minutes before their treatment is finished, the patient will call the driver to collect them at the door of the hospital and return them home.

“The driver brings the patient back home. The drive for the day is then complete."

To support drivers, the team holds Support & Supervision meetings twice a year.

Anyone who would like to get involved, or who would like more information can call 01 2316678 or email volunteer@irishcancer.ie

All volunteer recruitment, interviews, training and Support & Supervision sessions are held locally.

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