The Rs.636 crore-National Programme on Palliative Care will have lots to learn from Kerala’s model of palliative care, Union Health Secretary Keshav Desiraju has said.
The State’s system of care, with active participation of community volunteers, could hold lot of relevance for the rest of the country when the national programme would be rolled out, .Mr. Desiraju said, while on a visit to Kerala. But it may not be an easy road ahead, he added.
Mr. Desiraju had a first-hand experience of the remarkable work being done in the State in the area of palliative care delivery when he joined a medical team from Pallium India on Saturday on one of its home visits to patients.
The State Health Secretary, Rajeev Sadanandan, and the State Mission Director of NRHM, M. Beena, were also with him.
The team had to go a good distance on foot through paddy fields and marshes to reach a 73-year-old patient in one of the suburban locales here. He had become bedridden following a stroke two months ago. Since he began to be cared for at home after being discharged from the hospital, he had developed severe pressure sores and had been under much pain, unable to even respond to carers.
He felt much better since the Pallium India team began their once-a-week home service and provided a water bed for him to ease the pressure sores.
How far can the Kerala experience be taken to other States and how palliative care services could be integrated into the public health system would be the challenges ahead.
There was also the need to develop a an army of health professionals trained in palliative care, M. R. Rajagopal, chairman of Pallium India. Another major challenge before the Union government would be the easing of the narcotics rules and making morphine available across the country to patients who really needed it, while ensuring that it did not reach the wrong hands.
The National Palliative Care Strategy document drawn up by the Union Health Ministry in consultation with experts, listed some of these core issues.
The palliative care home visit in Kerala proved beyond doubt how integral palliative care services were in general healthcare, Mr. Desiraju said during discussions. As a first step, every State would be asked to set up a separate cell to focus on drawing up a mechanism for delivering palliative care services, he added.