Vital cancer service needs help as it helps others

Vital cancer service needs help as it helps others

Hundreds of cancer patients throughout WA  are continuing to receive vital help despite the COVID-19 pandemic after one of the State’s most important support organisations took just 48 hours to switch to a fully on-line service.

Solaris Cancer Care offers support to all people in WA affected by cancer, including carers and family members, through all stages of the illness.

It was forced to close its five centres on March 18 as the COVID-19 crisis deepened and its clients, whose immune systems are already compromised, retreated to self-isolation to avoid contracting the virus.

Solaris took just two days to transform its programs from face to face to on-line and by phone — ensuring people already coping with the debilitating effects of cancer were not abandoned.

Solaris chairperson Professor David Joske said the online services and counselling were  being accessed across the State and demand was increasing at an unprecedented rate.

“Cancer touches many lives regardless of global pandemics and economic meltdowns,” Professor Joske said.

“However, during the COVID crisis, supporting cancer patients, who are already immune-compromised and fighting for their lives, and their supporters, through such uncertain and unprecedent times adds a layer of complexity to an already vastly complicated medical, mental and well-being situation.”

But Solaris, which relies heavily on volunteers and a small staff, has taken a financial hit. Massive unemployment and social distancing rules have stripped away vital fundraising options and donations, and income from venue hire has collapsed, leaving the service searching for financial support.

With the State Government advertising for allied health staff including social workers and clinical psychologists, the volunteer-base could be eroded as people look for better pay or paid work to support their own families.

Solaris has turned to funding groups including Lotterywest in its search for a financial lifeline but is also hoping for community and business support.

“We are committed to rising to the challenges which stand before us,” Professor Joske said.

“We need funding now to continue our vital support to cancer patients, their supporters and general public as this community seeks help to navigate the COVID-19 crisis as it impacts their medical journeys, survival and mental health and well-being.”