The Sun (Malaysia)
Invest in palliative care training, govt urged
Shortage of professionals, lack of adequate resources affecting quality of service to patients: Caregivers
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.