Volunteers step up to help cancer patients in Southern Highlands

Joan Harrison coordinates the Southern Highlands GAPS program which is a free service to all cancer patients. Photo: Lauren Strode

Joan Harrison coordinates the Southern Highlands GAPS program which is a free service to all cancer patients. Photo: Lauren Strode

MANY public patients are forced to travel out of the Highlands for treatment.

This is the case for haematology patients in the Southern Highlands.

But they are not the only ones who are affected by this issue.

The General and Practical Support (GAPS) program is a free service offered to all cancer patients in the Highlands.

It is made up of 15 volunteers who give up their time to drive patients to their treatment and appointments.

The service also offers home help but cancer council community programs coordinator Sally Hudson said over the past 12 months, the need had mainly been for transport.

In the last financial year, the Southern Highlands GAPS service transported 427 passengers and travelled 29,148km which took 939.9 hours of volunteers time.

GAPS coordinator Joan Harrison said volunteers had to use their own cars but were reimbursed by the cancer council.

“The money from Relay for Life pays for the GAPS service for all those volunteers to be reimbursed and for training. It [the funds] are used wisely in the local area,” she said.

“I think it’s a great service, it speaks for itself.”

Ms Harrison said the service took the pressure off families who might otherwise have to give up work.

“It does take the pressure off families because in a lot of families the carer or spouse is still working, They really shouldn’t be on public transport [and] parking is a nightmare and it’s so expensive.”

Not only does the GAPS service provide much needed transport for patients, Ms Hudson said the training allowed volunteers to better support patients.

“The training provides volunteers with the knowledge of the other services available- such as financial services. If they recognise someone that needs that little bit more support then they can have that conversation,” she said.

While the volunteers are happy to use their own vehicles to transport patients, Ms Harrison said they hoped to get a car from the cancer council.

‘It’s really quite a shock how many people in the community have cancer.”

For more information on the GAPS service or to make a booking call 0428 681 926.

The cancer council also has more information about support services on its website cancercouncil.com.au or call 13 11 20.

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