Starting a children’s palliative care service in South Korea

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Sponsored by the electronics corporation, LG, and winners of the LG Global Challenge 2013, these Yongsei University undergraduates hope to “bring happiness and love to child patients and their families” by implementing children’s palliative care in their country.

The four young philanthropists travelled to the United Kingdom to visit a number of children’s palliative care services. The aim of this mission was to draw on the knowledge and advice of those working in this field in the UK and to observe and learn from their good practice. 

ehospice met the team during their visit to Hospice House in London, and interviewed Wonsuk Kang, the group’s translator and media liaison.

Why did you decide to set up a children’s palliative care service in South Korea?

One of our teammates had a cousin who suffered a brain tumour for more than 10 years, and had to let him go without being able to do anything to help.  

Also, we saw a documentary TV show that dealt with the children’s hospices in UK, and what advantages it could bring once they are established. 

What did you learn on your visit to the UK?

First of all, we learned that the situations of the UK and Korea were very different.

We were surprised by the donating culture that UK has, and well established community services and volunteers.

Korea doesn’t have those, and it would be very helpful if we did. However, we learned that we need to first be aware of the big picture instead of starting just because we feel the need.

First we have to do the need assessment of the children who are in need of the service through statistics, which will be a good data to convince the government, companies, and others. After that, we need to see what kind of service we have to provide, based on the assessment.

We have to know what we have and what we don’t have, to see whether we need a hospice building, and where should the building be if we decide it is necessary.

We learned that a home visiting team could be a lot more efficient in the beginning.  

And lastly, we enhanced our belief in children’s palliative care, and once again affirmed what the provision if this kind of care means to the child, family, and the community.

It brings true values, love, and very practical help to the families who receive the service.

How will you adapt what you have learned to the South Korean context?

We are still discussing this. We are in the planning stages, and will spend some time gathering advice and doing the needs assessment before we can say for certain how we will proceed. 

What government support is there for adults’ and children’s palliative care in South Korea?

For adults, the government pays 70% of the cost, and 30% goes to the patient. We have 144 adult hospices. There is no specified government support for children’s palliative care yet, and one tertiary hospital has made a children’s palliative care branch in its hospital, and is operating it. It is very small; it can take up to 5 to 7 children at a time.

What support do you need from the palliative care community in the rest of the world in order to achieve your goal?

We need the world to make a noise that in Korea, there are people who are willing, and who are dedicating their lives to set up a children’s palliative care centre, and many families will benefit from it so the government of South Korea realize its importance. Governments sometimes are more sensitive of what the other countries think of them than the views of their own citizens.

Also a charity or supporting funds will be wonderful. We will also work hard to set up a system that shows how the donated money is used.

All enquiries, advice and messages of support can be sent to Wonsuk Kang.

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