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Increase in cancer patients looking to spend last days at home amid hospital restrictions

The Irish Cancer Society has reported a rise in requests for its home-based palliative care service.

Image: Shutterstock/Surasak_Photo

THERE HAS BEEN an increase in the number of cancer patients who want to spend their last days at home due to current hospital restrictions, the Irish Cancer Society has said.

The Irish Cancer Society has reported a rise in requests for home-based palliative care from cancer patients who want to stay at home with their families due to Covid-19 restrictions on hospital visitors.

Requests for the Night Nursing service, which provides end of life care for cancer patients in their home, have increased in several areas of the country compared to 2019.

In Kildare, requests for the service have increased by almost 50%, while in Dublin, they have increased by more than 20%, according to the society.

However, the Irish Cancer Society has said it is experiencing difficulty with recruiting enough nurses to meet the demand.

The Irish Cancer Society’s Director of Services Delivery Donal Buggy said that “family members naturally want to be close to their loved ones in their final days and hours, but sadly current restrictions around Covid-19 mean that for many this is simply not possible in the hospital environment at the moment”.

“This has led to our Night Nursing service experiencing a significant increase in requests for end-of-life care in the home for cancer patients since the start of this year,” Buggy said.

“We urgently need more Night Nurses to allow us to keep offering this valuable service to anyone who needs it,” he said.

In a statement from the Irish Cancer Society, Tracey Kinsella, whose father Robert was supported by a Night Nurse during his last days in August, said that their nurse Annemarie gave the family “vital reassurance”.

“One aspect of our Night Nurse that I found so amazing was how she spoke to my sleeping dad with so much dignity,” Kinsella said.

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“She constantly told him the family was around him and that we would all be fine,” she said.

During the summer, the Irish Cancer Society said that it would be “completely unacceptable” if reduced cancer services during Covid-19 continued.

Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh said that it is “clear that the double whammy of chronic underfunding and Covid restrictions could lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients”.

“Anything less than the full resourcing and investment needed to avoid this situation is unacceptable.”

“Cancer patients need to be diagnosed and treated at the earliest opportunity so they stand the best chance of survival and having a good quality of life,” Morrogh said. 

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