A COLLABORATION between University Hospital Waterford and UPMC Whitfield Hospital has seen The Daffodil Centre being transferred temporarily from UHW to the main foyer of UPMC Whitfield. This decision was made last year in an attempt to keep the most vulnerable patient groups away from areas where Covid-19 patients may be receiving treatment.
Despite a sharp fall in service users following the move, current indications show a marked increased in service users, meaning not only are existing patients returning to the service but new referrals are attending also.
Covid-19 impact on service users
Cancer Information Nurse at the Daffodil Centre in UPMC Whitfield, Anna Drynan-Gale offers support and advice to patients and their families, together with her colleague Nurse Mary Bennett.
“We certainly experienced a fall-off in service users when we were based in UHW because we were a drop-in service so we had a lot of footfall with outpatients clinics and visiting family members.” said Anna. “Now, we are really reliant on people having access to our contact details and knowing that we are out here in UPMC Whitfield, and that we haven’t gone away.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we experienced a huge surge of calls to our cancer support, where people were incredibly distressed regarding an upcoming procedure or treatment and whether it was still going ahead.”
An average of 1,500 people are seen in the Daffodil Centre each year but a drop was seen last year at the height of the pandemic. Numbers have dramatically increased since opening in UPMC Whitfield based on referrals from UHW and internally in UPMC Whitfield, together with an existing cohort of patients.
Loneliness experienced during Covid
The Daffodil Centre remains very hopeful and confident that awareness around bodies will grow with increased campaigns, and that those seeking treatment or early-detection will attend appointments going forward.
“I think we can look at the future with some optimism and some positivity,” said Anna, “I think we have to, Covid has been extremely difficult for patients that are being diagnosed during the Covid pandemic, also people who are on treatment, it has been a very lonely time.
“Alot of the camaderie that patients would have had travelling on the bus for radiotherapy services, those friendships and that kinship that people gain during those journeys is gone. Now people are very isolated and travelling alone to their appointment, the mere fact of walking into a hospital on your own does completely change the perception of your journey.”
Patients are attending appointments alone, with many of those appointments being quite daunting, so the absence of a family member can be detrimental to the optimism levels a patient may have. UPMC remain hopeful that a small gesture of accompanying a patient to the clinical area can go some way toward alleviating that loneliness, so powerful is the knowledge that you aren’t alone.
Changes in the body
Figures show that 1 in 4 people delayed seeing their GP between March and June last year. Delays mean that cancer has likely gone undetected in members of the public since that time.
Nurse Drynan-Gale has outlined the importance of listening to your body, and knowing the geography of your body so that early detection is possible.
“We are asking the public to be very vigilant and aware of any changes in their body, particularly around unexplained changes like weight loss, unusual bleeding, pain that doesn’t go away, persistent changes like a cough that won’t go away, a sore or an ulceration that just won’t heal. Unusual changes in the shape of your breast or the formation of a lump.
“It is a concern that people are not always aware of their own bodies because we know that cancers that are detected early, diagnosed early and treated early have a very successful outcome.
If people are feeling less confident about attending a service at the moment, it’s important that they know GP services are still engaging with early detection, your GP is your first recourse.
The screening programmes are still going ahead and they are encouraging people not to miss their appointment with the hospital.
“If anyone is concerned about themselves, or a friend, or a change of pattern of symptoms or any queries at all with regard to cancer or the detection of cancer, we would ask you to call us and we will talk you through it all.”
Tara Grant, Director of Quality and Patient Safety in UPMC Whitfield, moved to reassure patients that the hospital is prioritising the safety of all patients to mnake it possible for patients to attend all scheduled appointments.
“Hospitals are a very safe environment, if you have been brought in for a scheduled appointment, there is limited footfall going through the hospital, there is safety protocol in place, all the safeguards are in place and you can be very confident when attending.” she said. “Anyone who can be deferred has been, so the most urgent and priority patient groups are being seen.
“Every possible precaution that could be taken here is being taken. Huge changes have taken place to ensure that social distancing can take place and all of the other necessary precautions to keep our patients safe.”
Tara credits the strength of the collaboration between, not only UHW and UPMC but also the Irish Cancer Society, for the increase in patients being reached.
“The Irish Cancer Society Daffodil Centre in UPMC Whitfield is a destination for patients and their families seeking confidential resources and guidance as they navigate their journey through a diagnosis and beyond,” she said. “The Daffodil Centre is the result of a successful collaboration between UPMC Whitfield and University Hospital Waterford and the Daffodil Centre has tempoarily relocated to UPMC Whitfield Hospital in an attempt to keep the most vulnerable patients away from areas where Covid-19 patients are being treated.
“The vaccine rollout is well underway but the reality is that we will be dealing with the pandemic in Ireland for a while to come yet. As long as the requirement is there, we are here to support.”
The Daffodil Centre
The primary remit of the Daffodil Centre is to address any concerns someone may have about cancer, and to offer emotional and psychological support to patients and their families. There is also a very strong remit in health promotion, cancer prevention and risk reduction. The Irish Cancer Society launched their national awareness campaign, ‘Your health matters’, on Wednesday, February 3, ahead of National Cancer Day on Thursday, February 4.
Either Nurse Anna Drynan-Gale or Nurse Mary Bennett can be reached on 087 9625433 or 086 0655721 from Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. Members of the public are encouraged to call with any queries or concerns about themselves or a loved one. Contact by email is also available at [email protected]