What is palliative and hospice care?
As defined by the World Health Organization, “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. ”
– (WHO, 2002).
The Palliative Care umbrella also covers Hospice Care — in particular, attending to those in the last chapter of their life, commonly called “End-of-Life Care”.
There is a growing prevalence of chronic and life limiting illness in our country, most of which are incurable upon diagnosis. With the trend of modern medicine focusing on curative measures, active management of chronic illness and even aggressive management of life-threatening illness, the resources from all sectors naturally sway in such direction. Without downplaying this particular prioritization on “Cure”, the Foundation works on the need to supplement resources towards the equally important component of health management-the component of “Care”.
It’s been said that “where the opportunities for cure decrease, the opportunities for care increase.” In the Philippines there is an estimated or 1 physician per every 833 people and 1 hospital bed per every 769 people. 70% of nursing graduates go overseas to work. Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity, about 70% of which are incurable at the time of diagnosis. According to official estimates, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a growing concern with as many as 12,000 people in the country living with HIV/AIDS in 2005. In a developing country such as our own, with the health situation still greatly in want, there is without a doubt, tremendous opportunity to care amidst the uncertainty of cure for a majority of our population.
Efforts for Palliative Care in the Philippines were initiated in the 1980’s. To date, more than 20 years later, there are around 36 organizations focused on providing palliative care among those with chronic and life-limiting illness in our country, especially to those under privileged. The stark reality however is that the existing organizations are continually challenged with need for man power and funding.
The Formation of The Ruth Foundation
There is still an enormous lack of training among medical and nursing staff in Palliative care and most organizations experience difficulty in maintaining committed volunteers. On top of this there is still lack of public awareness, meager administrative support and consequently, still no established government funding for hospice care. With this, the “voice” of Palliative and Hospice Care, remains very much in the background, amidst a resource constrained population, needing it most.
With this, The Ruth Foundation for Palliative Care was formed in 2012 for the primary purpose of providing community based opportunities for service in the care of the home bound elderly and those with life-limiting illness along side education and training in Palliative and Hospice Care, for nurses, volunteers and other community-based health professionals. The secondary aim of the foundation is to support palliative care efforts of existing organizations in the Philippines. Funds raised from a variety of sources, including private donations, corporate sponsorship and fundraising events will be stewarded by the foundation towards these goals. Annual funding priorities are determined by the Foundation’s Board of Directors and guided by recommendations of affiliated organizations.