In Pakistan, terminally-ill patients are treated as sources of income by the medical profession and the hospital culture. Their illness is not relieved, and the financial situation of their families is wrecked as they seek a cure or pain relief.
In 2005 the administrative council of St. Elizabeth Hospital, of which I was chairman at that time, began discussing the need for and the possibility of commencing home-based palliative care for the terminally ill at Hyderabad, a city of 4,000,000 in the south-east of Pakistan. Its introduction has enabled St. Elizabeth Hospital to continue to offer in a very new way the best possible care at the lowest possible cost to those in need and to manifest compassion and mercy in a practical and outstanding way in Pakistan. At St. Elizabeth Hospital, we are convinced that the best and only answer to violence is compassion.
On average, St. Elizabeth’s Palliative Care visits 30 terminally ill patients. Most of the patients are Muslim, although there are also Christian and Hindu. An important benefit of St. Elizabeth’s home-based palliative care service is that it facilitates inter-faith harmony through the caring ministry of committed Christian nurses, male and female, in the homes of people of different faiths, and through the meeting and mutual support of the religious ministers of Muslim, Christian and Hindu patients. The palliative care team comprises four male nurses, one female nurse, and a doctor.
In preparation for beginning the palliative care at St. Elizabeth Hospital, one of the nurses, Patras Inayat, completed a year-long Certificate in Palliative Care Nursing at Calvary-Bethlehem Hospital, Melbourne. Another nurse, Eric Siraj, completed his specialized Certificate in Pediatric Nursing in Hyderabad and further coursework in pediatric oncological nursing at the Children Cancer Hospital in Karachi. He went to Assisi Hospital, Singapore, in March-May 2012 for further palliative care training. Training and education is ongoing for the staff.
The Palliative Care Department at St. Elizabeth Hospital depends on donations. Some of the equipment such as syringe drivers for continuous pain-killing medication is expensive. The families of patients have little, there is no insurance coverage, and the government gives nothing. Only the generosity of Columban benefactors enables St. Elizabeth’s to continue this palliative care nursing. Thank you for your support.
Columban Fr. Robert McCulloch now lives and works in Rome, Italy.