Significant extra supports needed for cancer patients from Ukraine: Irish-based Ukrainian doctor

Irish Cancer Society introduces Ukrainian-language services for patients and families fleeing conflict in Ukraine

Over 7,000 refugees have so far arrived in Ireland as they escape conflict in Ukraine. This is with tens of thousands more expected. A mass medical evacuation of displaced Ukrainian patients is also anticipated in the near future.

Ukrainian cancer patients arriving in Ireland from the conflict in their homeland will require significant supports. This is to to integrate into the Irish healthcare system, a Cork-based doctor has said.

Cork University Hospital Consultant Haematologist Dr Vitaliy Mykytiv is helping to coordinate an emergency response effort among Ukrainian medical professionals in Ireland alongside charities and NGOs. He says some of his compatriots have already begun accessing health services here:

“We are expecting more Ukrainian patients to arrive in the coming weeks and months. They will require significant extra support in accessing treatment in Ireland,” Dr Mykytiv said.

He continued: “This will be complicated by a number of issues. This is including access to translated medical records from Ukraine where the war still rages. This is as well as necessary translation services in Ireland. These patients will have had their access to treatment severely disrupted as they leave their homes. There is also a significant existing variation in treatment regimes between the two countries.

“In addition the Covid-19 vaccination rate in Ukraine lags behind that of Ireland. Patients will need adequate protection from the current upsurge in cases here. This may further complicate access to treatment. Everyone involved in the emergency response must come together to ensure that these patients can benefit from prompt access to care. This is in addition to making sure there is sufficient capacity to cope with this influx of people. They will need additional supports.”

Dr Mykytiv’s calls have been echoed by the Irish Cancer Society. They have already introduced resources for Ukrainian cancer patients arriving in Ireland in expectation of the demand.

Irish Cancer Society CEO Averil Power said: “We are all heartbroken by the devastation caused by the war in Ukraine – the civilian casualties, the destruction of hospitals and other vital infrastructure as well as families being forced to flee their homes and their country. 

“The war will see Ireland become home to around 80,000 refugees in the months ahead. Among these will be children and adults with cancer who will need to continue their treatment here. 

“Our services are always available to everyone affected by cancer in Ireland. We are conscious that Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homes in such tragic circumstances have particular needs at this time. We want to ensure language difficulties or other challenges do not stop them accessing the care and support they need here. 

“Translated information for this community is provided through our website and our Freephone 1800 200 700 Support Line.

“We have opened our Children’s Fund to any Ukrainian family who has travelled to Ireland with a child who has cancer, and our Volunteer Driver Service is available to bring patients to treatment.

“A Ukrainian Crisis Coordinator is being appointed so that we can continue to respond to the changing needs of this community.

“We are very conscious of the struggles that our healthcare system has been facing throughout the pandemic. Therefore, it is crucial that our hospitals and staff are equipped to deal with Ukrainian patients with complex medical needs who are coming here, as outlined by Dr Mykytiv.

“As we open our services to people who find themselves in desperate flight from a conflict situation, we welcome any assistance from trained counsellors with Ukrainian or Russian language skills, as well as members of the public who may wish to help transport patients through our Volunteer Driver Service.”

People can support Irish Cancer Society services, including its Ukraine crisis response effort, by donating to its upcoming Daffodil Day fundraiser on Friday March 25. Visit www.Cancer.ie for more information.

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