Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (centre), listening to a presentation at the conference. At left is Consultant in Oncology and Palliative Care, Margaret Dingle Spence, while Chairman of the NCD Commission, Professor Trevor Hassell, is at right. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)

Barbados’ health service facilities are under immense and constant pressure as a result of the failure of some persons to "get it right when it comes to care of the elderly in general and the ill, in particular".

Health Minister, Donville Inniss made this charge today, while delivering the feature address at the 2nd Annual Conference of the Barbados Association of Palliative Care at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. ??He promised that he would be "unrelenting" in his fight for society to address these issues.

Mr. Inniss pointed out that just this week, the Health Ministry was trying to provide alternative accommodation other than the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) for 26 persons, most of whom needed palliative care outside of a tertiary care setting.

"At a cost to the QEH of approximately $30,000 per day, coupled with the disadvantage placed on those in [the] Accident and Emergency [Dept.] or elsewhere in the system who are awaiting care, this situation is a good example of how unsustainable the system is at present," he asserted, noting that "the unremitting march of chronic non-communicable diseases", especially cancers also had serious implications for palliative care.

"It is expected that by 2030, approximately 75 per cent of all deaths in Barbados will result from CNCDs. Clearly, then, this particular health profile will necessitate significant palliative care interventions," he explained, stressing his hope that the Barbados Association of Palliative Care would continue to play a critical role in policy formulation to help the Ministry create sustainable policies and programmes.

He disclosed that recently, the ministry had addressed palliative care issues by strengthening the supervision of nursing homes, which will be further enhanced; supporting gerontology studies at the BCC to build capacity in the area; introducing a pain management clinic; expanding education on elderly care issues; and carrying out a socio-economic assessment of those presenting for long-term residential care.

A Barbados Palliative Care Needs Assessment Project, under the supervision of Consultant, Dr. Natalie Greaves, was also tasked by the Ministry to outline the need for palliative care services on the island. Among the services identified were outpatient, phone-line consultation and direct inpatient care services, among others.

The Health Minister shared that the results of the Barbados National Assessment Project had indicated a social preference for a standalone in-patient hospice, with a maximum projected annual capacity of 250 patients, capable of providing respite and specialist palliative care services to terminal and immediately pre-terminal cancer patients, as well as patients with non-cancer diagnoses.??

Palliative care focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients, and is appropriate for patients in all disease stages, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses and those living with chronic diseases, as well as patients nearing the end-of-life.


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