World Palliative Care Day 2012
In Montemor-o-Novo, Alentejo, Portugal, we spent the afternoon of October 13th discussing Palliative Care in our town.
We invited those responsible for providing Palliative Care to share their views, namely:
- Irmão Adelino Manteigas, Director of Hospital São João de Deus, which has a 6 bed Inpatient unit for Palliative Care. As the theme this year was "Palliative Care for an Ageing Population", Irmão Adelino talked about life and death, how we face birth as a natural event of life; but, when we face death, we tend to leave before the end. Beautiful speech!
- Enfermeira Fátima Santos, who is responsible for a Palliative Homecare team in Montemor-o-Novo. She highlighted what could be improved in Montemor-o-Novo in providing palliative care in people's own homes.
- Enfermeira Graça Eliseu, the coordinator for the Regional Team of Alentejo, which forms part of the Continuity of Care Network (public Palliative Care, in Portugal, is managed within this Network, which belongs to the Government.) Enfermeira Graça coordinates the entire network for the region of Alentejo, consisting of more than 700 beds not only for Palliative Care, but also Rehabilitation units and Home teams. She presented how Palliative Care started in Alentejo and how it has developed to its current postion.
We have seen a huge improvement! At the end, everyone agreed that it was very important to understand the views of those coordinating the provision of care through the Network, their own feelings when all the available beds are occupied and they still have patients with symptom control or end of life needs requiring inpatient admission.
Perhaps an even worse situation is when they have to choose between two patients who are in exactly the same situation when there is only one bed available. Enfermeira Graca then has the difficult task of listening to all the providers and families asking for help. Wonderful explanation!
- Dr. João Marques, Councillor from Montemor-o-Novo Townhall, was the moderator of this roundtable. He functioned as the advocate for the Montemor-o-Novo population and posed questions to the speakers. Dr. Marques demonstrated to do all within his power to help. Well done!
We had then true testimonials from:
- Sr. José Almodôvar, widowed spouse;
- D. Maria de Jesus Cardoso, whose father passed away at home;
- D. Lucinda Campino, whose mother passed away in Hospital São João de Deus Inpatient Unit;
- Sr. António Ferreira, whose father passed away in a nursing home.
Each one told their story in his own way, including the difficulties of having a loved one passing away. They stressed the importance of Palliative Care when there is no hope of curing a lifelimiting illness but control of distressing symptoms and care at the end of life are needed.
This was a very emotive moment, with everyone crying.
We also talked about how it was in the past when we had no palliative care drugs in the community and how much more we were able to do to relive suffering when they finally became available.
In the audience, there was also some relatives of patients we had looked after in the past and some of them gave their testimonial as well.
At the end, Dr. João Marques, Irmão Adelino Manteigas and Enfermeira Graça Eliseu agreed to setup a meeting to investigate what could be done to improve Palliative Care in Alentejo and especially in Montemor-o-Novo.
Palliative Care in Portugal, is still an emerging concept.
As such, apart from spreading the message of what Palliative Care is about, the aim of this day was to improve relationships and joint working among the main Palliative Care providers in Montemor-o-Novo, for the benefit of patients and their families. This was greatly helped by having the support of the main representative of the people of the town- Dr Joao Marques from the Townhall.
We all agreed this was achieved!