Praise pours in for the 2nd ICPCN Conference held last week in Argentina

Categories: Education.

Two years of planning and hard work to present the 2nd ICPCN Conference, which took place from 18 – 21 May 2016 in the exciting and stunningly beautiful city of Buenos Aires, bore fruit as ICPCN and the local organisers continue to receive high praise from all quarters.

The conference got off to an excellent start beginning with a full day of workshops on Wednesday 18 May, attended by more than 160 delegates, and followed by an inspiring opening ceremony later that evening. This ceremony included a keynote address from Dr Lisbeth Quesada of Costa Rica and ended with ICPCN awards recognising Drs Rosa Maria Germ, Eulalia Lascar, Lisbeth Quesada Tristan and conference co-chair, Dr Rut Kiman for their contribution to the development of children’s palliative care in Latin America.

It is the policy of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) to hold conferences in the developing world, providing the opportunity for healthcare and allied professionals from the region to learn more about children’s palliative care from recognised experts and leaders in the field. The 410 registered delegates at the conference represent a record attendance for an international conference devoted to children’s palliative care. Delegates came from as many as 40 countries worldwide with 176 coming from Argentina and 49% of all delegates being medical doctors.

Messages of support
On each day of the conference delegates heard encouraging and inspiring messages of support and acknowledgement for the work of the ICPCN and for the conference from sources as prestigious as the Vatican, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Dr Marie-Charlotte Bouesseau of the World Health Organization, former Argentine football player Javier Adelmar Zanetti (“Pupi”) and ICPCN’s very own Global Ambassador, Micheline Etkin.

Plenary sessions
A rich cornucopia of plenary sessions from local and international leaders ranged widely in their themes and included Children’s Palliative Care in the Latin American Region (Liliana de Lima), Genetics and its Implications for Palliative Care (Dr Victor Penshaszadeh), Perinatal Palliative Care (Alex Mancini), The Growth of Education in Children’s Palliative Care (Dr Liz Gwyther) and Spirituality in Children’s Palliative Care (Father Rick Bauer), amongst others. The plenary sessions also included a showing of the Little Stars full length feature film from Moonshine Movies and the official handing over of the ICPCN Chair from Prof. Mary Ann Muckaden of India to Sabine Kraft of Germany.

One of the most popular and greatly anticipated plenary sessions, entitled ‘The Big Debate’ took place on Friday 20 May and certainly lived up to all expectations. At this plenary Dr Eduard Verhagen, Attorney and Medical Director of the Dept. of Paediatrics at the University Medical Centre in Groningen, The Netherlands and Dr Richard Hain, Consultant and Lead Clinician in Paediatric Palliative Medicine and Visiting Professor at the University of South Wales debated their respective stances on Decision Making at the End of Life. The session was followed by a lively session of comment, questions and answers.

Breakaway sessions and posters
Breakaway sessions were clustered according to theme and language (Spanish and English) and conference delegates were given a wide and rich variety of presentations. These sessions were all well attended and the question and answer time provided insight into the depth and value of the learning taking place.  A total of 130 posters were also presented over 3 days and showed that there is an encouraging amount of research happening in children’s palliative care. Awards were presented to two English and Spanish posters for being judged the best on show. The conference book of abstracts can be downloaded at present from the conference website and presentations will be made available on the same website within the following two week period.

Networking and relaxing
A conference is never just about the presentations and a great deal of wonderful networking and sharing also took place. The venue was abuzz with chatter and activity during the tea and lunch breaks with delegates mixing, viewing posters, enjoying the local cuisine such as ‘medialunas’ and ’empanadas’ with coffee and tea. By far the highlight of the lighter side of the conference was the cocktail party held at the Palais Rouge a few blocks away from the venue. Wonderful entertainment was provided by Argentine singer/guitarist Brian Chamouleyron who was joined on stage for a rendition of ‘Yesterday’ by trumpeter and our ICPCN Champion, Marquardt Petersen from Germany. Tango dancers showed off their smooth moves and soon had most of those in the room dancing along with them. The joyous party lasted until midnight and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Commitment of Buenos Aires 
It has become tradition at the end of an ICPCN conference to release a relevant statement or declaration at the closing ceremony. In accordance with this tradition the  ‘Commitment of Buenos Aires’ was read out by ICPCN Chief Executive, Joan Marston, at the closing ceremony on Saturday morning, 21 May.

It reads as follows:

Commitment of Buenos Aires (May 2016)

  • We believe that all children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions have the right to receive quality palliative care provided by trained professionals and support workers, wherever they live in the world.
  • We are concerned about the large and unmet needs of children requiring palliative care, especially in low and middle-income countries where the need is greatest.
  • We call on all governments to implement the World Health Assembly Resolution 67.19 of May 2014 on Palliative Care to ensure equitable access to palliative care, including pain relief, for neonates, children and young people and their families.
  • As palliative care practitioners and advocates we recognise that disparities exist within and between countries and services, but collectively we are a rich resource of knowledge and skills. We therefore commit to share all that we can, and to collaborate with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, governments and other relevant groups to achieve our global vision of palliative care for all children who need it.

The feelings engendered by these four days were perfectly captured by one delegate who wrote on her evaluation form, “Congratulations to the organization. My heart is full of enthusiasm, positive energy and love.”

To see more pictures and videos from the conference, you are invited to visit to the conference website.

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