Bangladesh lags behind in palliative care

Says Prof Nezamuddin Ahmed of BSMMU

Bangladesh remains far behind what is needed to minimise the pain and sufferings of patients when they know their death is imminent.

“We have very little capacity or understanding to provide care to such people suffering from cancer or paralysis. Our national health policy even does not mention anything about it,” said Prof Nezamuddin Ahmed of palliative medicine at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.

He said approximately six lakh people in Bangladesh need palliative care each year, but only around 4,000 avail it.

Referring to the 2015 Quality of Death Index by The Economist Intelligence Unit published on Tuesday, Prof Nezamuddin said Bangladesh stands 79th on a list of 80 countries in terms of quality of life in terminal days.

“This explains how we are performing in terms of palliative care,” he said on the eve of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day today.

Palliative care provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms and integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of care. It offers a support system to help patients' families cope with the illness.

In the developed countries, palliative care has been recognised and commonly in use for some 50 years to heal terminally ill patients through pain management, counselling, social security and spiritual support.

Sadly enough, such care has always been neglected in Bangladesh, Prof Nezamuddin added.

BSMMU started working in this regard in 2005 that led to the establishment of the Center for Palliative Care in 2011. The section is currently run by eight trained doctors and 15 nurses.

Dhaka Medical College Hospital has recently started a unit on palliative care. Other than that, only a few private initiatives are available in Bangladesh.

This year, for the first time, BSMMU has approved a programme -- Doctor of Medicine -- on palliative care.

“The government is focusing only on preventive and curative care. Even if it is found that a patient would not be cured, the curative treatment goes on. Thus, he or she only faces financial loss,” said Dr Nezamuddin.


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