For many newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, treatment delays and long surgical waiting times can mean the difference between life and death. With Project Flamingo’s support, state-funded healthcare is getting a much-needed boost.
South Africa’s state healthcare system is overwhelmed and on its knees in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. For cancer patients, this means scarce resources are reallocated elsewhere and treatments delayed.
For newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients, in-time surgical interventions can save lives. Yet many wait far longer than 14 weeks for what could be life-saving surgery.
Created in 2010, Project Flamingo is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to change this by helping address the lack of timeous and holistic treatment for breast cancer patients in the Western Cape Metropole.
Since its inception, more than 800 breast cancer patients received surgical care ahead of their state-scheduled slots on Project Flamingo’s ‘catch up’ surgery lists — performed at Groote Schuur (GSH), Tygerberg and Livingstone Hospitals.
To help support cancer patients during the pandemic, a total of 45 patients received their surgery at GSH, with 4 patients at Tygerberg and 18 more at Livingstone Hospital. Treatment of these 67 patients amounts to more R300 000!
Project Flamingo’s pamper packs are also seen as a token of hope by breast cancer patients at these institutions. When they first meet the clinical treatment team, newly-diagnosed patients receive a pack containing welcome bathroom essentials, reading material and healthy snacks. The pack is a symbol of solidarity — to remind patients they are not alone during their battle with their illness. Providing over 10 000 pamper packs to date, the team has even managed to expand its pamper pack distribution to new patients at Livingstone hospital in Gqeberra.
The volunteer-run group has also provided over 2500 food parcels (4 meals per parcel) to cancer patients. Some of the most financially-constrained patients often arrive hungry for their chemotherapy and this support gives them a small measure of food security during their cancer treatment.
Project Flamingo offers its support to other ‘sister’ projects — enabling around 50 stoma reversal surgeries to state-funded colorectal cancer patients. For patients who live with limited resources, managing a stoma in a low socio-economic setting is extremely challenging. By receiving this life-altering surgery, patients now have an opportunity to re-join the workforce.
Over the past year, the group facilitated large donations to Project Peacock and Project Daisy via LottoStar to support collaborative action across NGOs.
GSH’s breast cancer clinic has also received two much-needed mobile ultrasound machines for essential imaging and diagnostic procedures. To streamline logistical challenges, Project Flamingo funded a new a computerised online booking system and helped fund the services of a specialist surgeon at GSH breast clinic to ease pressure on the existing team.
For these staff members, burn out is a real risk. When possible, the team provides psychological support and ongoing education for oncology and surgical staff as part of its ‘Care for the Carers’ program.