Barbados is appropriately positioned to take on the task of providing palliative care in the hospital and community settings, given its existing health infrastructure.

This view was shared by Minister of Health, John Boyce, yesterday, as he addressed the Barbados Network Consultation 2014, during a presentation on Hospice and Palliative Care, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Mr. Boyce told his audience that the categories of professionals needed to provide multidisciplinary palliative care, such as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and dieticians, were already present within this island’s health sector work force.

???The Ministry of Health and the Government of Barbados are acutely aware of the growing needs of this particular segment of health care in Barbados, and have proactively sought to respond… A National Chronic Pain Management Committee has been established and has been charged with the mandate of examining pain management across the health sector. Their activities include the development of a pain manual; continuing medical education for medical practitioners; and education for health professionals and the general public, about the use of opioid drugs,??? he stated.

Palliative Care has been described by the World Health Organization as an approach that seeks to improve the quality of life of patients and their families who are faced with life-threatening illness. It relieves suffering by the treatment of pain and other health problems.

Mr. Boyce said Government is committed to giving a voice to those patients with life-limiting illness and their families, and to the development of this often overlooked aspect of health care.

He indicated that the Ministry of Health commissioned the Barbados Palliative Care Needs Assessment Project in 2012 and it highlighted key epidemiological evidence that pointed to a need for palliative care in this country.

He added: ???In our continued efforts to ensure that Universal Health Coverage is an underpinning principle of the delivery of care in Barbados, the Ministry of Health recognises palliative care as a viable treatment option and as a valid course for patients and the health sector at large. We recognise that palliative care, when indicated, is fundamental to improving the quality of life, well-being, comfort and dignity for individuals.

???Therefore, we commit ourselves to developing a palliative care policy that ensures that the needs of patients with life limiting or terminal illnesses and their families are met, through access to quality palliative care that is provided in a coordinated manner. We also commit to ensuring access to essential medicines, including controlled medications to all who need them; to ensuring that healthcare workers receive adequate training in palliative care approaches, at both the generalist and specialist levels; and, to ensuring the integration of palliative care into the Barbadian health sector at all levels.???

Minister Boyce emphasised that Government could not undertake this task alone, and stressed that multi-sector partnerships were critical. He commended the members of the Barbados Cancer Association (USA) for their commitment to the development of palliative care in Barbados.

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