Palliative care behind walls

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Our friends in Gaza face these issues daily and it was humbling to share wonderful Palestinian hospitality for a faculty visit from the Global Health Academy at Edinburgh University (UoE) to explore and support palliative care initiatives.

Thanks to Dr Khamis Elessi who is the energy behind this visit and to the Dean, Dr Omar Ferwana, and his faculty of medicine at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) who were our hosts.

Leadership and systems strengthening

We were able to visit colleagues from the Ministry of Health (MOH), United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the national El Shifa hospital and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS).

We met so many leaders who are committed to making a difference for the people of Gaza, and many already had awareness of palliative care and ideas regarding its development.

The importance of community based approaches, hospital models, evidence based practice, access to essential medicines, and education at all levels was highlighted with an emphasis on integration and health systems strengthening.

Workshop for palliative care

We supported the 4th workshop for palliative care in Gaza with 40 enthusiastic participants. The beginnings of a research agenda were developed.

Key issues were identified and recommendations discussed with our Gaza colleagues and summarised in a report.  

Policy and implementation frameworks for improved access to oral morphine were explored with a commitment to address this from the MOH.

Curriculum integration has begun, but needs to continue and the IUG is committed to undergraduate and postgraduate training.

Clinical services for holistic care need to be established and integrated with possible demonstration models within the main teaching hospital El Shifa and in the paediatric hospital where clear leadership and vision exists.

Community and collaboration 

There are impressive community based programmes integrating chronic disease and holistic care within a family health approach run by UNRWA, and an exciting discussion about modeling integrated palliative care within this structure as well as within the integrated model of population based health care and social care offered by PMRS.

Collaborations between the Global Health Academy UoE, Makerere University, Cairdeas International Palliative Care Trust, Medical Aid for Palestine and other partners are being explored.

The people of Gaza face so many challenges that palliative care access becomes even more important as a means to relieve suffering, restore dignity and to recognise the common humanity and value of each person.

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