“Palliative Care… Where are we now?” asks the 11th Malaysian Hospice Congress

Categories: Education.

Simultaneously, in conjunction with a national palliative care awareness campaign and the launch of a new national symbol for palliative care, Hospis Malaysia campaigned towards standardisation in palliative care services nationwide.

In his opening speech, the newly elected Chairman of the Malaysia Hospice Council (MHC), Dr Richard Lim Boon Leong who is also the national advisor for palliative medicine with the Ministry of Health in Malaysia sparked hope amongst delegates as he envisioned new opportunities for both the private and government sectors to partner with one another to enhance the provision of palliative care nationwide.

On the same platform, Datuk Ranjit Mathew Oomen, Medical Consultant for Palliative Care Association of Kota Kinabalu highlighted in his keynote address that the area needing further development is at the community level in the public. He emphasised that there should be a balanced delivery of palliative care between the government and private healthcare providers.

In line with the nationwide campaign for standardisation in palliative care, Dr Ghauri Aggarwal, Head of the Palliative Care Department of Concord Hospital, Sydney, Australia, addressed how evidence based medicine can help in palliative care where compassionate care is typically at the core of its care goals. She spoke about ‘measuring success in palliative care’ and pointed out that measuring outcomes is a way to measure the efficacy of a particular pathway of care. It provides material for research and auditing purposes and – most importantly – it can be used to improve the quality of healthcare services. “Many services form and develop but they do not look to the standard of care that they provide and answerability is not always incorporated into routine clinical practice” said Dr Ghauri.

In his plenary session on ‘Controversies in palliative care’, Dr Ednin Hamzah, CEO / Medical Director of Hospis Malaysia, argued that palliative care challenges the boundaries of medicine and ethics. He asks: “Is palliative care a medical sub-specialty or simply an approach to care that should be adopted by all healthcare professionals?” It asks us fundamentals as to how we care for ourselves and begs the question of the clinicians – “should you treat the patient the same way as if you would treat your loved one?”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines palliative care as ‘an approach that improves the quality of life of patients facing problems associated with life-threatening illnesses’. Debunking possibly the most common myth surrounding palliative care – that palliative care is only for people with cancer, the congress offered symposia on non-cancer related palliative care such palliative care in neurological diseases, cardiac palliative care and respiratory palliative care. It also included a symposium on paediatric palliative care, debunking another myth that palliative care is only for old people.

A palliative care themed photography exhibition was set up to provide the congress delegates an insight on the impact of such an exhibition and how awareness can be spread to the public. The exhibition, an initiative by Hospis Malaysia, was first featured in April at Publika, Mont Kiara in Kuala Lumpur and, in line with that, the launch of the new palliative care symbol officiated by the Minister of Health, Datuk Seri Dr. S. Subramaniam. The symbol was developed to form a unified icon for palliative care and to standardise what it stands for. There were over 300 delegates at the congress, many of whom were immensely supportive of the new symbol, purchasing and wearing T-shirts or pin-badges containing the symbol and striking various poses with the symbol which were shared over their social media channels. Delegates then pledged their support towards standardisation of palliative care services across the country by signing a pledge supporting:

  1. Better access to quality palliative care 
  2. Meeting international standards of care 
  3. Integrating palliative care into general and specialist training 
  4. The development of partnerships between public and private healthcare providers.

Decision makers at the congress were inspired to host similar public awareness exhibitions in their communities across the country with the aim of collecting sufficient pledges to support a call to policy makers to enact legislation to set minimum standards for palliative care service provision in the country and to take on the responsibility of ensuring that quality palliative care is accessible for all Malaysians in need.

Take a stand on the future development of palliative care in Malaysia; join us in raising awareness of palliative care today! To find out more about palliative care and to sign the pledge, please visit www.palliativecare.my/support