Hospice staff are frontliners who must be in Phase 1

CURRENTLY, the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme has not formally included hospice staff among healthcare frontliners included in Phase 1 of the rollout.

Hospices have been providing community palliative care for more than three decades in Malaysia. Palliative care is supportive care of patients with life-limiting illnesses such as terminal cancer.

People with such illnesses are referred by government and private hospitals to hospices for continuity of care and support in a home setting.

A clinical team comprising doctors, nurses, allied healthcare professionals and volunteers conduct home visits to improve quality of life by managing symptoms and offering support to patients and their families.

During the pandemic over the last year, the care teams have been endeavouring to continue these homecare services through careful risk management, adhering to the SOP and taking the necessary precautions. In some instances, this care has reduced the need for patients to be hospitalised and facilitated care at home as far as possible.

A total of 26 hospices are registered under the Malaysian Hospice Council and more than 54,000 home visits are conducted annually. These hospices have strived to maintain this much-needed community support in the midst of the current pandemic.

We appeal to the relevant authorities, especially the Health Ministry, to recognise hospice healthcare staff as frontliners to be included in Phase 1 under the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme.

We hope palliative care patients and their families may continue to be served while maximising the safety of hospice staff who deliver this much-needed service to the community.

DR ANTHONY GILBERT , Honorary Secretary, Malaysian Hospice Council & President, Hospice Negri Sembilan

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