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WHAT A difference a few years make.
Up until recently, Bajans at home and in the diaspora didn’t focus much attention on hospice and palliative care.
Bajans weren’t alone. At least 120 United Nations member-states haven’t acted on World Health Organisation pleas to integrate such care in their health services.
But thanks to the efforts of the Barbados Cancer Society in Bridgetown, the Barbados Cancer Association USA Inc. (BACA) in New York and the Barbados Association of Palliative Care this picture has changed.
Last Sunday, scores of Barbadians occupied the pews of St Leonard’s Church, a prominent religious institution in Bedford-Stuyvesant, to attend a “Service of Recognition” that was arranged by BACA to observe world hospice and palliative care day. Other reasons abound for people’s attendance at the 90-minute service.
Worshippers were observing world hospice and palliative care day and they also wanted to learn more about the care provided by such facilities for patients living with a “life limiting” illness.
In addition, they were eager to hear about progress towards construction of a stand-alone hospice and palliative care facility in their birthplace.
“BACA has partnered with the Living Water Community, a lay Catholic community service NGO, to locate the hospice on their St David’s campus” in Christ Church, explained Dr O’Neall Parris, BACA’s president.
“In Barbados, of the 2 401 deaths – 502 from cancer and 2 265 from other causes – that occurred from 2004 to 2006, it is estimated that 74 per cent would have benefited from palliative care. The increasing incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases, the ageing population and the projection that by 2030, 86 per cent of deaths in Barbados will be attributed to these disorders demand a proactive approach to minimise the economic burden on the country and to provide appropriate elder and end of life care for Barbadians” said Parris.
Hence, the plans for the 14-bed facility with a preliminary estimated construction price tag of $4 million.
Construction is likely to begin next year and should be completed in 2017.
“There is a clear indication that the need for a hospice in Barbados is great indeed and so far we have reached out to Barbadians across the UK and the US,” added Parris. “We plan to do the same in Canada.”
Jessica Odle-Baril, a former Barbados Consul-General in New York who is BACA’s vice president, linked the “message of God’s love for us and for humanity with Hospice and Palliative Care Day” and with the “dream and anticipated reality” of a hospice in Barbados.
Rev Canon Dr Llewellyn Armstrong, interim priest in charge of the 79-year-old St Leonard’s, said there was “a clear and demonstrated need in Barbados for the kind of care a hospice provides.”
Weeks before the service, Dr Adrian Lorde, a leading family physician in Barbados who was the key speaker at an annual cancer symposium in Brooklyn sponsored by the Caribbean American Medical and Scientific Association, CAMSA and BACA, said the “hospice will prove to be of tremendous benefit to the people of Barbados.”
In July, a four-member delegation, comprising Parris, Odle-Baril, Heather Marsh, BACA secretary, and Dr Margaret Sukhram, a vice president of the Caribbean-American Medical and Scientific Association in New York, visited London and met with members of the Bajan diaspora and discussed the plans for the hospice and toured a facility in Worcester.
Tony Best is the Nation’s North America correspondent. Email: Bestra@aol.com