More can be done to boost palliative care

We thank Ms Ada Chan Siew Foen for her letter ("Give medical students more exposure to palliative care"; Aug 5). We cannot agree more with her.

The Singapore Hospice Council (SHC) has been supporting the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine undergraduate palliative medicine training in the community over the years by facilitating the in-patient hospice and home-care attachments for the students.

Likewise, Duke-NUS Medical School and the Nanyang Technological University Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine have palliative medicine as part of their undergraduate curriculum.

However, more can be done. Not only do we need to train future doctors and incorporate palliative care into the management of conditions which no longer have a curative aim, but there is also a need for those who are already in practice now to have a deeper understanding of palliative care.

A study carried out in 2014 showed that only 38 per cent of doctors and 45 per cent of nurses consider themselves to be familiar or very familiar with palliative care.

Hence, there is work ahead of us. We need to build a healthcare system that will not just allow us to live well, but also support good care right up to the end of our lives. The SHC and its member organisations will work with the various educational institutes to advance the palliative care training of healthcare workers. At the same time, there is a need to raise public awareness of this area of work.

Indeed, as our society matures, among many other indicators, it will be in how we care for those who are reaching the end of their lives that will define us.

Angel Lee (Dr)

Chairman

Singapore Hospice Council

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline 'More can be done to boost palliative care'. Print Edition | Subscribe