We are now over five months into what has become our ‘new normal’ way of living and working within the restrictions of covid-19. At the start of the pandemic many things were very uncertain and there was a great deal of anxiety. How would we all cope with the uncertainties and obstacles covid-19 placed in front of us? As a charity we faced these fears together as a team, and what kept us focused was our patients, their families and their needs. We worked towards solutions to made sure we were still available for our community while also ensuring the safeguarding of all our service users, staff and volunteers.
Throughout the lockdown we remained open, providing essential services and support, making sure those who needed us were not facing this alone. Some services had to be modified and adapted to comply with public health guidelines and restrictions, while others had to be suspended for a time period. During this time, we saw
a significant rise in requests for our services. Lockdown and its resulting consequences of social isolation caused increased feelings of fear and anxiety, this on top of similar worries some people were already dealing with because of their cancer. Never did our patients and families need us so much and, even at the worst moments of this
pandemic, we never stopped being there for them. I am immensely proud of our Cancer Relief team, their unwavering professionalism and dedication during this uniquely demanding time. It has been tough at times, there has be laughter and tears, but not once did their commitment to delivering our vital services to our community ever falter. Healthy diets, lifestyles and work life balances, went out the door for a beat while we survived on lots of tea, coffee, cake and chocolate! We may all come from many different backgrounds and bring different levels of experience to our small team, but we are there for each other always. Under Cancer Relief we have
become like family and I am extremely proud of them all. April saw the number of service users increase 81% in comparison to the same period in
2019, with new referrals alone increasing by almost 300%. We provided 1850 telephone clinics in just 3 months and supported 15 patients in their end of life care needs and death, supporting their loved ones throughout, and beyond with their bereavement needs.
The initial fear and anxiety of Covid-19 may have subsided slightly however its challenges remain very real for many people, including us at Cancer Relief. How we continue to safely provide and deliver our services within the current restrictions is always on our mind. As seen recently in the Hon. Chief Minister Covid-19 press announcement we will remain in phase 6, with no easing of restrictions just yet and not move, as planned, to Rock Unlocked. It isn’t what we all were hoping for, but the evidence shows that Covid-19 is within our community and we all must do our part to help halt its spread. We must not become complacent.
Within the current restriction guidelines, we have managed to reopen certain suspended services, alongside our adapted services. However, our patients and carers still have the option to use, where possible, digital and telephone consultations. This is something we will continue to take forward post covid-19 as many people found it very convenient. This is just one of the small positives we have seen come out of this difficult time. Those who require essential face to face visits, we continue to do so, wearing all appropriate PPE, following strict public health guidelines. We monitor public health updates daily and discuss their impact on service delivery and workforce planning weekly at our Covid meetings. We will always strive to keep our patients, families, volunteers and staff safe. We have made all the necessary adjustments to our Centre workplace practices, helping to mitigate covid-19 risks as much as possible. We continue to observe the rules of social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene as advised.
Slowly we are welcoming back some of our brilliant volunteers! We have missed them all so much and it has been wonderful to see their faces and smiles once more.
Should you visit the Centre you will see some changes. There will be new signage and social distancing guidance, hand hygiene stations and one-way systems. You will be screened prior to entering the Centre by staff. You may see our staff, therapists or volunteers wearing masks in environments where the rules of social distancing cannot be observed or where specific tasks or situations demand them. Please be assured, as frustrating and inconvenient as all these procedures might be, they are in place for your
and our protection, and they will never dampen the warm welcome you will always receive at Cancer Relief.
We will continue to review our strategy for reopening the Centre and all our normal services at our weekly covid-19 meetings. Our strategy will be firmly grounded in current Public Health, Government and GHA guidance and recommendations. It will be a slow process and we will be cautious. Sadly, for the first year since opening the Centre in 2013 we will be unable to have our summer party; we haven’t dared to think of our Christmas one yet. Covid-19 may still be here, and I think we all can agree we just want it to go away now. Making these sad but necessary sacrifices will help to slow down and hopefully get us back to some sort of normality sooner. Finally, I would just like to thank the Gibraltar community and the breath-taking support we received throughout our covid-19 fundraising struggles. Thank you to every single person who worked so hard to keep the charity supported during this time and for your on-going support.
Thanks to you all, we continue to be able deliver our services and be available to our community.
Wishing you all a safe summer and please continue to follow the guidelines.
Gráinne McKenna Cancer Relief CEO