The theme of this year’s conference was “Palliative Care, More than just Cancer Care.”
The conference was well subscribed with over 150 interested attendees inclusive of nurses, social workers, physicians, various health care workers and members of the public.
The participants listened to Dr Dingle Spence, Jamaican consultant oncologist and palliative care physician, talk about her pioneering work on opioid policy in Jamaica. The local Minister of Health, the honourable Dr Fuad Khan, vowed to have more discussion in establishing an opioid policy in Trinidad and Tobago as well as supporting efforts in education for health care workers in palliative care.
Attendees were treated to informative lectures from Dr Leah Steinberg and Dr Russell Goldman from the Temmy Letner Center for Palliative Care at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. The programme covered a wide variety of palliative care topics from symptom management across varied disease conditions, paediatric palliative care, complementary and alternative medicine, communication skills, ethics, burnout, spiritual care and even the utility of social media.
Speaking about the conference, Dr Ravindra Maharaj, palliative care physician, said: “As a member of the Palliative Care Society of Trinidad and Tobago, I was very pleased with the turnout at the conference. There was a wide cross section of local health care providers to this fully subscribed event. It’s encouraging to see the support of the philosophy of palliative care in my country. I fully support the Minister of Health’s opinion that opioid policy is needed in Trinidad and Tobago and it is very fortunate that Dr Spence, our Jamaican neighbour, is a great resource of regional expertise in opioid policy. It is of note that she is a graduate of the International Pain Policy Fellowship based in Madison, Wisconsin.
We focused on the fact that palliative care is not just applicable to cancer. The vast majority of people with end of life issues or serious illness can benefit from the input of a good palliative care team. We hope that our educational efforts can further inspire the conference attendees to continue to improve the quality of care for our patients.”
The Trinidad and Tobago Newsday reported on the discussions around opioid availability. According to this source, Dr Spence agreed with the Honourable Minister that increased opioid availability was essential, but cautioned that this was just one aspect of a complex process. She said: “There is no point in having very well educated professionals that know how to prescribe medication if you don’t have the medication. There is no point in having the medication if nobody knows how to use it, and you need policy. You need your ministry involved, you need policies that say this is the way we are going, this is the way we do it.”
Read more on the website of the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.