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'Doctors should gently handover patients to the other side for comfort care'

October 24, 2017



Mumbai based PD Hinduja hospital started city’s first palliative care centre to extend the facility to non-cancer patients with medical conditions such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, neurodegenerative diseases, kidney problems and heart diseases.


Doctors present on the occasion spoke about the crying need to provide pain relief and comfort care to all seriously ill patients, irrespective of the disease or social status. Universally, the tradition of palliative care started for cancer patients, said doctors, but there was an urgent need for palliative care for other diseases.


Dr Roop Gursahani, consultant neurologist at the hospital, who was instrumental in starting the service, said there is a huge unmet need for palliative care in India, for chronic ailments other than cancer.


Dr Gursahani said specialists and general physicians will have to learn how to handover the patient to the other side (to palliative care specialists) with compassion and grace.


“Palliative care is a medical discipline that focuses more on relief than cure that is essential during the last years of life.


"The major hurdle in providing palliative care in India for chronic medical ailments has been lack of awareness, coupled with manpower shortage that specialises in this discipline,” he said.


Dr Jayathi Deodar, a psychiatric oncologist, described palliative care as ‘adding life to years and not adding years to life’.


Dr Mary Muckaden, head of department, palliative medicine for cancer patients, Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), said, around 175 to 275 patients per lakh in India need palliative care, but less than 1% get it.


“In India, the healthcare system is attenuated to provide care for acute diseases such as malaria, dengue and so on, but what about chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases?” 


“The distress level of patients with chronic diseases is similar to that of cancer patients. Since cancer patients, diagnosed at late stages, die sooner, the disease has been the focus of palliative care,” Dr Naveen Salins, associate professor and consultant, department of palliative medicine, TMH, said.


“At present, palliative care in the public sector is non-existent. The focus in public hospitals, in the coming years, it must shift from treating acute disease to chronic diseases," he said.


Hinduja hospital will be providing inpatient and out-patient palliative care services. The hospital also plan to start home-based palliative care.



Read full report here:

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