Dr Victor Calvagna
Mary Rose Bugeja
Puttinu Cares, the children’s cancer support group was set up 12 years ago soon after the opening of a specialized Paediatric Oncology Unit in Hospital, now known as Rainbow Ward. The support group offers guidance for the patient and relatives, helps them deal with the ordeal ahead and gives them hope for a brighter future. The team gets to know the families and aims to treat each family with individual needs.
Puttinu offers help when families need to go abroad to pursue any kind of further treatment in UK. Government covers all medical costs for the patient, but Puttinu is there for accommodation for the accompanying family free of charge. Our support has now extended to include adult patients. This alleviates a huge burden, since when a child gets sick parents doesn’t have to shoulder the expense of accommodation to be able to stay with their child in hospital and care for them in between stays.
Since 2008 we have started slowly purchasing apartments and today, we own 18 apartments in Sutton. The support group have however been receiving requests for help from people suffering from various ailments, and not just from Cancer. We realised that in order to be able to help all these people with accommodation we require more than just the 18 apartments in Sutton. Infact since last December 2014 we started renting another seven apartments near the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton. This means that 25 apartments are available to hundreds of families in their time of need. The rental of these apartments’ costs to 60,000 euros every six months.
Right now, between 60 – 90 patients are having treatment in one of 30 different hospitals in UK every month. These patients can spend weeks, months and even years away as in patients or coming and going from hospital.
Puttinu Cares has a dream – that there will come a day when no patient and his family undergoing treatment abroad will have to pay for accommodation. We are on our way to making this dream come true. Right now, we are in the process of looking for a piece of land near the centre of London since the majority of patients go to Great Ormond, National and Moorefields Hospitals which lie in Zone 1. We are calculating that to solve 80% of the problem of accommodation for the Maltese population we need around 30-40 studio apartments in all. This project is being estimated to cost between 20-30 million sterling
The importance of supporting patients when they are undertaking therapy away from home is paramount. Providing accommodation close to the hospital not only alleviates the financial burden but is also an important ingredient in the sick child’s cure. Having their parents and siblings close at hand when they are going through these difficult times is not a luxury, but a must.