Palliative care is underdeveloped in Lebanon – only last year palliative care gained officially recognition as a medical specialty and there are very few physicians and nurses trained in palliative care.
Balsam – The Lebanese Center for Palliative Care – is a non-governmental organisation that provides free palliative care and trains doctors and nurses in the discipline. Director of Balsam, Hibah Osman, the first licensed palliative care physician in Lebanon, also heads a newly established palliative care program at the American University of Beirut.
Dr Ferris, who is director of palliative medicine, research and education at OhioHealth, a large network of hospitals in the US, has been involved in palliative care development in a number of countries, and first visited Beirut in 2001 to raise awareness of palliative care.
He latests visit also involved raising awareness, as well as introducing training programs, providing advice to government officials on a palliative care law and giving recommendations on how it can be funded. Dr Ferris also facilitated a workshop on ‘Leadership development for hospital-based palliative care programs’, with the aim of introducing healthcare providers to the skills necessary for building hospital based palliative care programs.
Dr Ferris and Dr Osman have also been raising awareness among the public through speaking to the local press.
In an interview with The Daily Star, they highlight the importance of palliative care and describe some of the barriers which currently exist in the country. For example, currently, insurance companies can deny coverage of medicine if the patient is transferred into palliative care.
They also highlight how medical advances and longer life-expectancies mean that there is an increasing need for palliative care, while illness still carries a stigma, leading to late diagnosis of diseases.
Read the full article on The Daily Star website and to find out more about Balsam and palliative care in Lebanon you can visit its website or read an interview with Loubna Batlouni and Mohammad Saab, part of the Balsam team, which ehospice published last year.