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Can Assist ensuring country people, regardless of where they live in NSW, have access to cancer treatment and care

Rural and regional NSW has suffered unprecedented adversity over the last 12 months, with an intense drought, devastating bushfires, and now COVID19. 

Managing a cancer diagnosis alongside these challenges adds a layer of hardship: Cancer patients living outside a major city are already 17 times more likely to experience financial problems.

Can Assist, a 65-year-old organisation which supports cancer patients of country New South Wales who find themselves in financial stress following  diagnosis, has stepped up its services in the face of these additional challenges.

It has offered food vouchers for cancer patients; help with taxi fares after bushfires closed roads and rail lines in January; emergency accommodation for fire evacuees; petrol vouchers as COVID19 closed airports and other transportation; and funding for extra travel as border closures forced people to go further for treatment. 

"Some people in my health district would… not be able to afford treatment… I consider Can Assist an essential service,” said Lita Matthews, Senior Social Worker at Orange Hospital. 

 A string of natural disasters has dramatically escalated pre-existing financial disadvantage for many rural cancer patients, who already face specific problems.  

Weakened immune systems make them more vulnerable, not only to the COVID19 virus but also to smoke pollution and extreme heat from bushfires. The fires resulted in road and transport closures that made it more difficult for patients to access treatment, and COVID19 intensified this as community operated driving services , regional flights and public transport were significantly scaled back. 

Can Assist is now facing the dual challenge of lower funding and higher expenditure, as those same disasters have curtailed its traditional fundraising activities across NSW. 

The registered charity, with 56 branches, operated by over 3,000 local members volunteers  normally raises between $2.5 million and $3.5 million a year to support their clients. Paid office staff at Can Assist number only 6 (full time equivalent).

To find out more about Can Assist visit

This organisation is supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees.