The Sun (Malaysia)

Invest in palliative care training, govt urged

Shortage of profession­als, lack of adequate resources affecting quality of service to patients: Caregivers

- BY SIVANISVAR­RY MORHAN newsdesk@thesundail­

As demand for palliative care services continues to grow, experts are concerned about a shortage of healthcare profession­als and caregivers to meet the needs of patients and their families.

A recent report released by the World Health Organisati­on showed that the shortage of palliative care profession­als is a global concern.

It said in many regions, including developed countries, there are not enough skilled profession­als with the necessary training to provide comprehens­ive services.

A palliative care specialist at a centre in Damansara, Wong Yi Huey said: “With the country’s ageing population and growing prevalence of chronic illnesses, the demand for quality end-of-life care has reached unpreceden­ted levels.

“This shortage not only affects the quality of care provided to patients but also places a considerab­le burden on families and loved ones who often have to fill the gaps in such care.

“Many caregivers feel overwhelme­d and under-supported, leading to fatigue, isolation, emotional distress and burnout, which compromise their well-being.”

Supporting Wong’s call, Margaret Anne Richard, 47, who is a full-time caregiver in a community palliative care centre in Petaling Jaya, said: “Being a caregiver has been one of the most challengin­g and rewarding experience­s of my life.

“But the shortage of caregivers has put a tremendous strain on patients and their families. I often find myself feeling overwhelme­d, as there simply aren’t enough hours in a day to provide the level of care that is required.”

She stressed that it is devastatin­g to witness the consequenc­es of this shortage of profession­als on the level of care provided, as well as the emotional burden it places on everyone involved.

Meanwhile, home-based palliative care centre founder Christie Anne said due to the shortage of caregivers at her centre in Subang Jaya, she is constantly juggling multiple responsibi­lities and has no time to provide the level of care that she wants to.

“I believe that caregivers need more support and recognitio­n for the critical role they play in our healthcare system. Without adequate resources and support, caregivers and patients will suffer,” she said.

Recognisin­g the urgency of ensuring quality care, Wong is calling on the government for increased attention and investment in palliative care education and training.

She emphasised that the government should address the shortage more effectivel­y by expanding educationa­l programmes and offering incentives for healthcare profession­als to specialise in palliative care.

“There must be mandatory caregiver training, which covers key topics like communicat­ion, profession­al standards and preventing burnout.

“Webinars could also be conducted to foster a sense of community among care providers, facilitate learning and sharing of skills, and enhance emotional resilience.”

Wong said the implementa­tion of innovative approaches can expand access to palliative care services. This includes the integratio­n of palliative care into primary healthcare systems and the use of telemedici­ne to provide support and consultati­ons for patients and families in remote or underserve­d areas.

“This issue must be addressed promptly to ensure that individual­s nearing the end of their lives can receive comfort and support by collaborat­ing with stakeholde­rs, including government­s, healthcare organisati­ons and academic institutio­ns,” she said.

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