Improving the quality of life of patients and their families, bringing relief in physical pain and mental support are the primary goals of hospice and palliative care. Such care also includes support for families helping them get through the difficult times of disease.
In order for the patient to receive palliative or hospice care, a referral from a health insurance doctor is required. The patient, or in suitable cases his/her family or caregiver should sign a consent. For children, the consent from parents or legal guardians is needed (after the child reaches the age of 16, his/her consent is also required).
The form of organising the services
Services within palliative and hospice care are provided in the form of residential services – in a palliative medicine ward and residential hospice, in the form of home services – in a home hospice, and also in the form of outpatient services – in a palliative medicine centre.
Palliative care is provided by professional teams consisting of doctors, nurses, clergyperson, psychologist and rehabilitators, supported by volunteers prepared for taking care of the dying.
In hospital or hospice
Palliative medicine wards and hospices are especially intended for patients at the end of their lives, with symptoms which are difficult to manage, and without prognoses for recovery.
Such wards and residential hospices must constitute separate organisational units, e.g. within a healthcare centre; these cannot function within other hospital wards.
Home hospices provide comprehensive care for patients in advanced, progressing and life-threatening chronic diseases with pessimistic prognoses, resistant to causal treatment.
Patients covered with this type of care are entitled to doctor’s consultations – at least twice a month, and nurse’s visits – at least two times a week. Visits of other members of the home hospice team (psychologist, physiotherapist) are arranged by the care-providing doctor on a case to case basis, depending on the patient’s needs.
In an outpatient care centre
Palliative medicine outpatient care centres provide care services for patients whose general condition is stable and who are able to get to the centre. The centres also deal with patients who require home visits due to their limited motion abilities.
Patients can make appointments or order home visits two times a week.
How many people benefit from the care
Currently in Poland there are approx. 500 palliative and hospice care centres; seven centres operate within medical academies.
Approx. 90 thousand patients take advantage of palliative and hospice care, the majority of them suffering from advanced neoplasms. However, according to the Polish Palliative Care Society, such care is needed by approx. 200 thousand patients per year.
Every year in Poland over 322 thousand deaths due to chronic diseases and 90 thousand due to neoplasms are recorded.
The history of palliative and hospice care
The beginnings of palliative and hospice care in Poland date back to 1976, when a group of volunteers, inspired by Halina Bortnowska, was established at the Arka Pana Church in Bieńczyce Nowa Huta. In 1984, on the initiative of the late Rev. Eugeniusz Dutkiewicz, the first, exemplary home hospice under the name Pallotinum was created in Gdańsk.
The first palliative care team with an outpatient clinic was established in Poznań at the Oncology Clinic in 1987, and four years later it was extended with a seven-bed ward – the first Palliative Care Clinic in Europe with programme of training medicine students.
Since 2001, the Chair and Clinic of Palliative Medicine has been operating on the basis of the Palium Hospice.