Guyana commits to strengthening and expanding Hospice and Palliative Care

On Saturday October 9th, the Ministry of Health joins with the rest of the world in observing World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, under the theme ‘Leave no one behind – equity in access to palliative care’.

Like many countries world-wide, Guyana does not have a comprehensive hospice and palliative care as part of its healthcare services.  The sad truth is, only 12% of the global population in need of hospice and palliative care presently, are able to access such care, and even less than 12% access high quality hospice and palliative care.

In addition, each year 56.8 million people, including 25.7 million in the last year of life, are in need of palliative care, of whom 78% live in low- and middle-income countries. Most of the global need for palliative care has been driven by the continuing non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis. Cancer continues to be a major driver of the palliative care deficit.  This glaring public health deficit is an injustice and Guyana and countries around the world need and must ensure this gap in healthcare is eliminated sooner than later.

Moreover, the lack of or the inadequacy of palliative care was highlighted by COVID-19. The need for palliative care in all places and settings to relieve suffering at the end of life, such as the physical suffering caused by breathlessness or the mental pain resulting from separation from loved ones has been vividly highlighted by the pandemic. The pandemic also reminds us of the need for all health professionals to be trained in a palliative care approach: the demand for palliative services exceeds what can be provided by specialist teams alone.

As the world observes World Palliative Care Day, Guyana commits to strengthening and expanding hospice and palliative care as part of the healthcare services provided for all Guyanese. Equitable access to safe and quality palliative care for all citizens is a human right and, therefore, Guyana must take immediate steps to ensure hospice and palliative care gaps are eliminated. In this regard, the Ministry of Health and Government of Guyana have already taken steps to prioritize hospice and palliative care in the new health strategy for Guyana, which will be introduced in 2022.

The time to act is now.  No-one who needs care should be left behind!

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