Rontu Sangma, Pallium India’s Regional Coordinator- North East India, writes:
The 27th International Conference of Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPCON 2020) was held at my hometown of Guwahati from February 14th to 16th. The Conference was organised at Guwahati Medical College under the leadership of Dr Dinesh Goswami and Dr Arun Deka as organizing chairperson and organizing secretary respectively. This was the second time in the history of IAPCON that North-East India was chosen to host the event.
The North East is known for its hospitality, cultural and gastronomic richness and biodiversity. Though remote and hard to reach as compared to mainland India, healthcare in the region is gradually improving thanks to new hospitals and medical colleges. However, access to pain relief and quality palliative care remains a huge challenge. As the regional coordinator of Pallium India’s national outreach program in the North East, I work with government, policy makers, public and private healthcare providers, civil society and most importantly patients and their care givers to promote palliative care in the region.
I have been preparing for the conference since August 2019 as I saw it as an opportunity to bring together and galvanize the palliative care fraternity in the region as well as to follow up Pallium India’s past work in the region. I met Dr. Arun Deka (HoD, Dept. of Pain & Palliative Care, SCI) at HM Hospital, Guwahati in August 2019. He was warm and receptive and later on his demand, he along with his team was introduced to Pallium India team at Trivandrum. Subsequently I met Dr. Kabindra Bhagabati (Medical Officer PCU) of Dr. B. Borooah Cancer Institute, Guwahati, as I went to attend their ‘Nursing Workshop in Palliative Care’. In that workshop, I also got the opportunity to meet Dr.Dinesh Goswami, CEO of Guwahati Pain & Palliative Care Society and organizing chairperson of IAPCON 2020. This meeting was a breakthrough in my advocacy and outreach work in the region as I was able to build a strong professional bond with leading stakeholders in the region and was henceforth invited to become part of future workshops and meetings in the region. Later on, I was invited to be part of the IAPCON organizing committee.
On the one hand, I enjoy planning events, co-ordinating, and following up on working plans, and constantly researching and providing solutions to problems that arise along the way. It was a great personal and professional experience interacting with the conference participants. A total of 750 delegates including 27 foreign nationals attended the conference. I was also thrilled and delighted to touch base with palliative care professionals from Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram whom I had met earlier.
It is heartening to note that Palliative Care is growing in the North East region. Looking back, participating in an international conference organising committee was nerve-wracking and time-consuming; yet it was exciting and full of positive experiences. Now that the conference is over and people are back to their work, I look forward to applying new lessons learned and contacts established in my work.
Reeya Rao and Sagarika Pradhan, two students from Delhi travelled to Kerala to study the community-based palliative care model. They went to General Hospital, Ernakulam where, within a government setup, Dr. Mathews Numpeli developed an admirable palliative care service within the government hospital, well integrated into the institution’s healthcare delivery. Dr. Athul Joseph Manuel is leading the program now.
Reeya and Sagarika write about what they saw in Ernakulam and in the rest of the state. Unlike many others, this article on palliative care in Kerala has depth. Please give it a read:
A phrase we were introduced to by Mhoira Leng who had come across it in her work in conflict riddled Gaza, from those who suffer in ways most of us cannot even fathom – showing us that humanity and love have always been and always will be the only answer to unspeakable tragedy.
At the annual international palliative care conference this year, we saw the planting of a new seed – the first steps in creating a Task Force for palliative care in humanitarian aid and emergency settings in the Indian context.
Illness can bring unimaginable suffering. There is indescribable horror when there is a disaster, be it natural or manmade. Bring those two together and it is almost too much to bear.
But rather than look away, it is now more than ever that we really need to examine the human condition in all its raging, despairing, clawing misery, and meet it with compassion.
The relief efforts in the aftermath of the massive earthquake in Nepal, the stories from Sudan and Gaza, and other accounts from Kerala were profoundly moving. Learning about the work done by the Border Security Force every year in Assam when the Brahmaputra river floods was an eye-opening experience.
And witnessing palliative care providers and defence personnel come together to talk about joining hands for the alleviation of suffering was unexpected, uplifting and deeply restorative.
“Humanity to Infinity.”
In the darkest of times. In the most wounded places.
Thank you Dr. Mhoira Leng, Dr. Chitra Venkatesh and Dr. Jenifer Mugesh for organising the session. Thanks to Mr. Noordeen, Dr. Dan Munday, Dr. Athul Joseph Manuel for wonderful presentations. We were privileged to talk about our own work in Alapuzha District of Kerala after the 2018 floods, a project that was generously supported by Cipla Foundation.
Special thank you to Dr. Savita Butola for bringing in her colleagues from the BSF – Suresh Kumar Commandant, Ftr HQ BSF Guwahati and Ratish Kumar, AC(Law). We salute them.
Close on the heels of the “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) guidelines created by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) comes this welcome news. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi has created draft guidelines for end of life care.
We shall eagerly await the final document when it goes up on AIIMS website for public suggestions.
Mr Pranab Kumar Basu, a volunteer for Eastern India Palliative Care (EIPC), visited Pallium India for two days in January 2020. He shares his experience:
My two-day visit to Pallium India has touched me profoundly and enriched my mind. On Day 1 (24 January), Project Co-ordinator Rajalekshmi Balu introduced me to the members of the sweet family of Pallium India, and I was enthralled by their hospitality. I was honoured to be a part of the weekly team meeting for review of the works done in different spheres by the volunteers, medical social workers, nurses, social workers, doctors, and co-ordinators. I was asked to introduce myself. I told the team that I am a volunteer who counsels terminal cancer patients and families registered at Eastern India Palliative Care (EIPC), Barrackpore, WB.
Afterwards, I met medical social workers, volunteers, National Outreach Team, project officer, nursing in charge, and, through sharing, I learned a lot. I had a discussion with Dr Chandrika Rajagopal and Dr Sunil Kumar regarding the protocol of morphine advised to terminal cancer patients. In noble social work there is no value for “I”. Instead, “We” plays a vital role. Pallium India demonstrates the message that “Together we can make a change”.
The second day (25 January) was another memorable day for me. I was thrilled to bits to be one of the members of the interdisciplinary home care team visiting Palode locality. OP was arranged to examine the patients by the doctor, and to provide free medicines. The others proceeded to visit patients at home. Blood pressure, sugar level, pulse rate were examined by the trained senior nurse, who talked to the patients and the primary caregiver about the well-being and advised how to provide better quality of life with dignity. Free medicines were provided. I was fascinated to note that language was not a barrier: I was able to participate actively in conversations with the patient, without knowing Malayalam.
Being a septuagenarian, I wonder how I got so much energy, without feeling tired from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., even trekking along the undulating terrain; I believe I was imbued with the enthusiasm of team Pallium India.
(Image: Mr Pranab Basu, right, with Mr Nandu and Mr K N Nair of Pallium India)