BELhospice was established in Belgrade in 2004 as the first palliative care and palliative medicine centre in Serbia. The hospice was founded by a team led by Dr Natasa Milicevic, an oncologist in Belgrade. It is supported by the UK charity Hospices of Hope as well as by donations and fundraising within Serbia and abroad. All of the hospice’s services are provided free of charge to patients and their families.
Since its opening the vision of the centre was to
- provide palliative care to terminally ill patients in Serbia in accordance to standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Council of Europe
- to assist the process of education of relevant professionals as well as of the general public
- to promote the concept of palliative care in Serbia and to encourage the wider community to support the work of the hospice.
BELhospice works with patients suffering from advanced malignant disease by providing holistic care to patients and their families along with specialist medical advice on pain relief and symptom control, nursing care, emotional and spiritual support. Based out of an office and training suite in Belgrade, BELhospice provides care to patients both in their own homes and also in the city’s hospitals. They also run courses for doctors and nurses in palliative care.
In 2004 BELhospice started with one doctor and a nurse offering very limited service to a small number of patients. 2011/2012 saw significant expansion – a multi disciplinary team is now in place comprising two doctors, three nurses, a social worker, psychologists, a spiritual coordinator and a group of 20 volunteers.
In his welcoming speech at the Charity Ball BELhospice CEO Zoran Purkovic said “The key to adequate palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach to the patient and his family. The patient is taken care of by doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and volunteers. As one of our patients once said: “It’s like a mother hugging a child, you feel protected and safe.”
Mr Purkovic concluded by reflecting on his recent two weeks training at St Christopher’s Hospice in London “at the end of my stay in St Christopher I gave a presentation of our work here in Serbia. For me, it was very important to receive full support for the work we are doing and now I am quite confident that we are going in the right direction.”