WORLD Hospice and Palliative Care Day is an annual day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world. The day is observed on the second Saturday in the month of October. The theme of this year’s Hospice and Palliative Care Day is ‘Leave no one behind — equity in access to palliative care.’ It is a little-known celebration in most countries of the world, due to the fact that it affects a relatively small proportion of the world’s population, in particular those who are terminally ill and are in the final stages of their mortal existence.
Yet, given the uncertainty and unpredictability of life, no can be sure how their final days would look like, and to that extent, we are in some ways vulnerable to the changing fortunes of life. This is why as a country and as a society we have to show care and concern for those who have, for whatever reason or circumstance, found themselves in a situation where palliative care is required.
This year’s observances are taking place in an environment of the COVID-19 pandemic which puts our elderly at even greater risk. Age does bring with it all manner of challenges and vulnerabilities, but it is the extent to which our elderly are treated in their ‘sunset’ years by society and family members that really matters.
Sadly, in many countries, enough attention is not being paid to individuals in need of such care and treatment. This is especially so in low and middle-income countries and the idea behind the observances is to shine some light on the inequity in access of such care to a significant number of the world’s population. Like many other countries, Guyana does not have comprehensive hospice and palliative care as part of its healthcare services. The data showed that just around 12 per cent of the global population in need of such assistance is able to access the required care. In addition, each year 56.8 million people, including 25.7 million in the last year of life, are in need of palliative care, of whom the vast majority live in the developing world.
One significant contributor to the need for hospice care has been the increasing number of persons who are diagnosed with end-stage and chronic cancers and are in dire need of such support. The global rate of cancer is expected to increase by 75 per cent by 2030, which makes it all the more necessary to create a more robust palliative and hospice infrastructure. The number of new cancer cases in Guyana is expected to increase by a third by 2030.
Guyana already has a national cancer registry and surveillance system to capture patient data, as well as disease trends and patterns. The idea of the registry is to strengthen registration capacities in order to guide effective national cancer-control planning and decision-making.
As the Guyana economy becomes further consolidated, more resources will be made available to the social sectors, especially education and health. This includes palliative care and hospice treatment.
The Government of Guyana has committed itself to strengthening and expanding hospice and palliative care as part of its overall healthcare services provided to the Guyanese people. Indeed, equitable access to safe and quality palliative care for all citizens is a human right and the PPP/C Government has been taking steps to prioritise such care as part of its health strategy for Guyana.
Palliative care refers to specialised medical care for people living with a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease. Such care is intended to enhance a person’s care by focusing on quality of life for them and their family.