A section of the audience at the symposium on Hospice and Palliative Care at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

A new hospice is on the cards for Barbadians suffering from chronic and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, congestive heart failure, kidney failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. An initiative of the Barbados Diaspora Collaborative USA, the proposed 9, 000 square-foot facility will comprise 20 beds and is expected to accommodate 250 terminally ill patients annually.

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, welcomed the initiative yesterday, while delivering the feature address at the Symposium on Hospice & Palliative Care in Barbados, during the first day of the Barbados Network Consultation 2012, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

He said statistics from the Ministry of Health showed that between 2004 and 2006, there were 437 patients with terminal cancer who experienced pain; 244 patients who experienced difficulty breathing; and 256 patients who experienced nausea and vomiting.?? The Minister acknowledged that the quality of life of these patients could have been made easier with appropriate palliative care intervention.

Mr. Inniss noted that more recently, preliminary data projections indicated there was a need for this type of care.

"…To address this void and in view of the potential numbers of persons who could benefit from palliative care services in Barbados, the Ministry of Health commissioned a Barbados Palliative Care Needs Assessment Project.?? This was conducted by Dr. Natalie Greaves and was done in a phased process, which included a review of relevant literature on palliative care, an epidemiological need assessment and, very recently, a recommendation with respect to a model of palliative care for Barbados and attendant human resources requirements, for consideration and approval.??

"It was found that an estimated maximum of 326 patients with non-cancer illnesses could be in need of supportive palliative care in the last year of life, whilst up to 125 patients (with non-cancer illnesses) could be in need of in-patient hospice care.

"It was also found that given the country’s existing health system, in this context – the existing national HIV/AIDS programme, tertiary level oncology, anesthesia, internal medicine departments, as well as integrated primary care and public health systems – the integration of palliative care is an achievable goal," Mr. Inniss explained.

He pointed out that with chronic diseases projected to be the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the next 15 years, in addition to Barbados’ growing elderly population, Government was faced with the challenge of providing care for those persons with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, as well as managing and relieving their pain and suffering.

To this end, Mr. Inniss said the Ministry of Health had established a National Advisory Committee on Chronic Pain Management, chaired by Dr. Greaves. Its mandate is to identify strategies to improve palliative health care.

The Minister said Barbados would be looking to employ a mixed model delivery system "with generalist and specialist palliative care being provided in both the community and the acute hospital settings".

He added that it would also include private nursing homes, polyclinics and geriatric institutions, capable of providing such services. This model, he pointed out, would address issues of general access to palliative care services, be responsive to user choice and likely reduce "crisis" hospitalisations.??

"We seek to provide palliative care services which underscore a partnership between the patient, medical specialists and family, not only by controlling symptoms, but also by helping those affected and afflicted to understand treatment goals and options. We embrace the concept of hospice care that treats the person rather than the disease; that focuses on quality rather than length of life and is family-centered," Mr. Inniss said.

The proposed hospice is expected to be opened in mid to late 2014 and will be constructed at a cost of between BDS $1 million and $1.5 million. The Barbados Diaspora Collaborative USA, is a non-governmental organisation made up of Barbadians living overseas who support development activities in Barbados.


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