Columban Fr Robert McCulloch reports on St Elizabeth Hospital's palliative care to terminally ill patients in Pakistan:
In Pakistan terminally ill patients are treated as sources of income by the medical profession and the hospital culture. Their illness is not relieved and the financial situation of their families is wrecked as they seek for a cure or for pain relief.
In 2005 the administrative council of St Elizabeth Hospital, of which I was chairman until November 2011, began discussing the need for and the possibility of commencing home-based palliative care for the terminally ill at Hyderabad, a city of 4,000,000 in the south-east of Pakistan. Its introduction has enabled St Elizabeth Hospital to continue to offer in a very new way the best possible care at the lowest possible cost to those in need and to manifest compassion and mercy in a practical outstanding way in Pakistan.
As of November 2014, St Elizabeth’s palliative care visits 30 terminally ill patients. Nineteen are in terminal condition stage 4, nine in stage 3, and 2 are undergoing chemotherapy and radiography. 20 are male and 10 female, 18 are Muslim, 9 Christian, and 3 Hindu.
An important benefit of St Elizabeth’s home-based palliative care service is that it facilitates inter-faith harmony through the caring ministry of committed Christian nurses, male and female, in the homes of people of different faiths, and through the meeting and mutual support of the religious ministers of Muslim, Christian and Hindu patients. The palliative care team comprises of four male nurses, one female nurse, and a doctor.
St Elizabeth Hospital is a member of Singapore-based, APHN (Asia Pacific Hospice Network). In August 2014, the administrator of St Elizabeth Hospital, James Francis, and the head of the Palliative Care Department, Patras Inayat, attended the Catholic Health Australia annual conference in Brisbane. An outcome of their visit included the establishment of further professional development with Cabrini Hospital, Melbourne.
The Palliative Care Department at St Elizabeth Hospital depend on donations. The Melbourne Overseas Mission of the Archdiocese, Melbourne have kindly helped with the purchase of a small car, to enable the palliative care nurses to visit patients.
The generosity of Columban supporters has also enabled us to purchase equipment such as syringe drivers for continuous pain-killing medication which is expensive. The families of patients have very little, there is no insurance cover and the government offers no support.
We would like to thank Columban benefactors for their support. It is through their generosity that St Elizabeth can continue to deliver palliative care nursing to the terminally ill.
Fr Robert McCulloch SSC was a missionary priest in Pakistan from 1978-2011. He now resides in Rome after taking up an appointment as the Procurator General for St Columbans Mission Society. Fr McCulloch returns to Pakistan several times each year.
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