What is Palliative Care?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2007), “Palliative Care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment, and treatment of pain and other problems: physical, psychosocial and spiritual”.
Current status in Oman
In the past 42 years, Oman has progressed in all fields of lives and in particular in health service deliverance. As a result, life expectancy within the population has increased from 40 years in 1970 to over 75 years in 2012, which means a substantial increase in the geriatric population. New demands in health care provision have appeared, and palliative care is now a recognized priority.
Oman is currently in the process of developing Palliative Care Support Services for patients, not only in cancer but also for other medical disciplines that are in a terminal stage. The Ministry of Health is actively involved in developing and supporting efforts that will enhance this project and pave the way to a successful outcome of a robust and globally recognized palliative care service in Oman. The Ministry of health is in the process of building infrastructure of specialized palliative care units within their hospitals to cater for this important and much needed service. In Palliative care practice, the ratio of Nurses to patients is as follows:
• In adults 1:6
• In children 1:3
Palliative care in Oncology
The Oman Cancer Association, under the leadership and guidance of Ms. Yuthar Al Rawahy, studied the status of palliation and palliative care in Oman. It was realized that there were many gaps to be filled and there were not specialized units or beds in any of the two oncology centres in the country. Therefore, OCA made the decision to develop this field in a holistic way that will embrace our culture and heritage. The utmost need was to create awareness on palliative care, and it was undertaken in two lines of work. First by training the healthcare providers, which was OCAS’s first goal. Secondly, by empowering the palliative care patients and their families regarding the best care for terminally ill patients.
With this in mind, in 2013, H.E. Dr. Ahmed Al Saidi, Minister of Health, endorsed OCA to coordinate with the Ministry in the promotion of capacity building, knowledge sharing and transfer in the field of Palliative Care. Thanks to this agreement, a training program was developed and implemented to train nurses through three distinct courses: basic, advance and leadership & research. Finally, a group of outstanding nurses, that had attended all three workshops, was qualified to become trainers, in order to start developing the talent in Oman and spread the knowledge.
Regarding the second goal, it was also important to convey the right messages to the community about the best practice and care required for terminally ill cancer patients. Therefore, the association worked to get families to understand that their loved ones were better at home than in hospital, and to create awareness about the importance of having them live their last days in a caring surrounding and die in a dignified way. To help families cope with the needs of a terminally ill patient, they receive some training by healthcare professionals to learn how to handle the issues that may arise once they get home.
Aware of the concerns of the families, OCA is currently working to open a new facility which will help “Bridging the Gap”, by providing a temporary home where terminally ill cancer patients and their families will stay for a short period to receive the necessary training before going home. Qualified community nurses certified from OCA’s training courses will also support the patients while at home.
• To build capacity, knowledge sharing and transfer in the field of Palliative Care through the training of healthcare providers.
• Empower the palliative care patients and their families regarding the best care for terminally ill patients.
• OCA has managed to fully train and certified 180 nurses and 40 physicians that have successfully finalised the three courses on the palliative care: basic, advance and leadership & research.
• A group of 20 outstanding nurses, that had attended all three workshops, was qualified to become trainers, in order to start developing the talent in Oman and spread the knowledge.
• OCA has started to train a second group of 180 participants, which attended the basic course on palliative care training for hospital and community nurses on February 2017.
The Association is proud of this achievement and is thankful of the support received from the Ministry of Health and grateful of the funding provided by the strong partnership with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).
• Opening of the new facility “Bridging the Gap” to host up to 16 terminally ill cancer patients and their families to receive the necessary training to learn how to handle the health issues that may arise once they get home.
• Continue with the implementation of the training courses on palliative care to increase the number of trained nurses.