The Lien Collaborative Palliative Care Workshop for Sarawak was held from 10th to 14th April 2023 in Kuching, Sarawak. This collaborative workshop was a significant milestone in palliative care development in Sarawak, whereby palliative care service is only accessible in an urban setting. Sarawak, situated in East Malaysia, is the biggest state with dispersed communities in the urban and rural settings. Therefore, there is a strong need to develop palliative care across all health systems to ensure equitable access to palliative care within the state.
The collaborative effort between Sarawak and Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHN) was sealed on the 13th of April 2023 by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Prof Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, the Deputy Premier representing the state of Sarawak and Dr Ednin Hamzah, Chair of APHN signed the MoU, which is a significant step to see the successful rollout of palliative care training and educational program across Sarawak. The MoU was signed during the cultural dinner, witnessed by the Sarawak General Hospital Director, representatives from APHN, Sarawak State Health Department, CEOs from hospices mainly the National Cancer Society of Sarawak Branch, Two Tree Lodge Hospice, Sarawak Hospice, President of Society for Cancer Advocacy and Awareness (SCAN), leads from the Radiotherapy, Oncology and Palliative Care Department of Sarawak General Hospital and participants of the workshop. There was a serving of delightful local curated cuisine, hosted by the Deputy Premier and the festive mood was set by musicians from Kuching Kamerata.
The Deputy Premier of Sarawak, during his speech, pledge the state’s commitment to partner with APHN in the promotion and provision of palliative care services throughout Sarawak. This pledge was greeted with great enthusiasm from the local organising team and stakeholders, which had hoped for greater expansion of palliative care in the state.
This partnership would enable the state to access regional expertise in palliative care, which will help to improve the quality of care provided to patients. APHN faculty with the local palliative care teams will provide training, technical assistance and education to healthcare professionals in Sarawak to ensure they develop the necessary skills and knowledge to provide effective palliative care. The MoU will also enable Sarawak to collaborate with APHN and other partners in the region to develop and implement policies and strategies to fit the local community in improving palliative care services. This will involve sharing best practices, exchanging information and experiences and working together to address common challenges.
There was a total of 46 participants from three major state hospitals and 12 health clinics selected, with the aim for these attendees to be Master Trainers after the completion of three modules of the workshop. The attendees included doctors, nurses and medical assistants who work with patients who require palliative care services. The module was presented through lectures, group discussions, case studies and role-playing exercises.
The workshop also included visits to the palliative care ward and oncology wards of Sarawak General Hospital to provide practical exposure to participants.
The workshop was able to achieve its objectives, whereby participants gained knowledge and skill in the principles of palliative care, pain and symptom management, communication and end-of-life care. The workshop also promoted the importance of palliative care in healthcare services. The feedback from the participants was positive, and they appreciate the content and delivery of the workshop. The participants found the role-playing exercises and case studies particularly useful in improving their understanding of palliative care. The visits to the palliative care and oncology wards were also highly appreciated as they learned to put their knowledge into practice.
In conclusion, the inaugural Lien Collaborative Workshop for Palliative Care for Sarawak is an invaluable program in the development of palliative care services in Sarawak. The success included support from major stakeholders, namely the Sarawak government, Sarawak State Health Department, Hospital Directors, Divisional Heads, Local Hospices and Palliative care teams, including the commitment of selected participants to be trained in all three modules. The MoU is a testament to Sarawak’s commitment to providing quality healthcare services to its citizens and will go a long way in improving the quality of life of patients and their families.
Written by Dr Sharon Choo (Sarawak State Palliative Care Physician, Sarawak General Hospital)