Positive outcomes of a successful conference held in Minsk

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The VI International Conference ‘Children’s Palliative Care in Countries of Eastern and Central Europe’, which took place from 21 – 23 November 2013 in Minsk, Belarus, demonstrated an emerging understanding of necessity of developing paediatric palliative care in CIS countries. The conference was organised by the Belarusian Children’s Hospice, International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), the Ministry of Health of Belarus, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and attracted the attention of not only health care professionals but public health officials from 12 countries. In the beginning the conference was planned for 130–150 attendees however there were more than 200 participants, not including students who were present without registration. Together with the hosts of the conference – Belarusian participants – the main groups were representatives from the Russian Federation (65 people) and Ukraine (18 people), among them there were officers of the Ministry of Health from these neighborhood countries. They came to learn from the international experience in developing of paediatric palliative care services. 

High level of presentations
Thanks to the support of ICPCN there was the possibility to invite a number of leading international experts to present modern trends and approaches in paediatric palliative care, the latest data on needs assessment in palliative care for children in different countries and models of children’s palliative care provision in societies with different levels of development. Participants praised the high level of the presentations and their practical application that had an added value for those who are planning to introduce paediatric palliative care systems within their counties.

Of great interest was the Belarusian Children’s Hospice’s experience in working with state health authorities in providing palliative care for children. The development of paediatric palliative care in Belarus was presented by the Belarus Ministry of Health. There was a clear understanding that for paediatric palliative care to be effective there needs to be close collaboration with that country’s healthcare authorities. 

Round table discussions
The last day of the conference was devoted to a round-table discussion about the problems of palliative care for children with non-oncological diseases. Parents of children with disabilities and representatives of associations for children with disabilities were invited to participate. They could express their views on palliative care for their children and voiced their needs and expectations from health care providers.

Generally, the conference involved a wide range of topics on children’s palliative care from strategic planning, needs assessment and fundraising to individual care planning, and the medical, social, psychological and spiritual support for every child and family. Unfortunately there was not enough time to discuss everything. Social events were not forgotten by the organisers. The participants had an excellent opportunity to visit the performances at the Opera and Ballet theatre and the Operetta theatre in Minsk and were able to enjoy Belarusian national music at the opening ceremony and welcome reception.

After the conference
Even after the conference the participants continued to keep in touch and discuss future projects and cooperation. For example, a Memorandum of Collaboration was signed between the Belarusian Children’s hospice and an Ukraine Charity organisation which plans to begin the development of pediatric palliative care in Ukraine. During the period December 2-6 2013 the group of 8 Ukrainian health professionals (pediatricians, nurses, psychologists) attended the postgraduate course on pediatric palliative care hold by the Belarusian Medical Academy for postgraduate education and the Belarusian Children’s hospice.

We strongly believe that the great enthusiasm generated by the atmosphere of the VI International Conference “Children’s Palliative Care in Countries of Eastern and Central Europe” in Minsk will give an enormous push to the development of effective children’s palliative care systems in those countries. Our confidence is based on the possibility for health care professionals, health authorities, charities, and other associations and societies to collaborate, which was clearly demonstrated at the conference in Minsk.

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