Malaysia Launches First National Policy on Palliative Care

74477372_10156476261141237_4740615258706542592_n
Source: Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia

The Ministry of Health Malaysia along with nationwide providers of palliative care will launch the first ever National Palliative Care Policy and Strategic Plan 2019-2030 on the 6th of November at Hospital Selayang.

It is estimated that over 100,000 Malaysians who die each year require palliative care and by the year 2030, it is projected that the number will rise to 230,000.

The National Palliative Care Policy was developed because the government as well as experts in the field of palliative care agree that more needs to be done to ensure that all Malaysians will receive the proper care that is needed to ensure comfort and dignity whenever they face a life-limiting illness.

At present there are only 21 trained palliative care specialists in Malaysia and 5 specialised palliative care units. Training programmes have been developed to generate more skilled human resource for doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals, however much more needs to be done to ensure that every healthcare facility in every corner of the country has some form of palliative care service to fill the gaps which thousands of suffering Malaysians are falling into because there is not enough support to help them through their most painful and difficult problems.

The vision of the National Palliative Care Policy is “Providing Compassionate Care Throughout the Healthcare System” and the essence of the policy is to integrate palliative care services seamlessly into the current healthcare system so that everybody, no matter where they live either in the rural or urban setting and whether they are rich or poor, all should receive care that is compassionate and fulfils the most important needs of comfort and dignity.

Dr. Richard Lim the National advisor for palliative medicine in the ministry of health says that, “Palliative Care is everybody’s business and this policy is to send the message to all healthcare providers that they have a responsibility to every patient they serve that compassionate care is a must in all that they do.” He adds, “Palliative care is something that will involve all of us at some point in our lives. Whether it is for ourselves or for someone we love dearly, we will all face a time where sickness or old-age will inevitably force us to face our mortality and when that time comes, we must have a system in place that serves as a safety net to ensure that everyone will be supported, comforted and cared for properly till the very end.”

Homecare or community palliative care is a vital component of palliative care services in the country. Over the past 28 years, this has been provided for mainly by charitable non-governmental organisations. At present there are only 30 such NGOs including Hospis Malaysia and members of the Malaysian Hospice Council, providing homecare services completely free of charge. The government is truly grateful for their invaluable contribution to the nation. These services however are very limited and only cover larger urban areas. Funding is lacking for further expansion and the government is therefore looking at ways to collaborate further and enhance these services. Since 2016, the MOH has started the domiciliary palliative care programme and is now available in some states including Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Pulau Pinang. Part of the policy strategic plan is to further develop domiciliary palliative care services to encompass the entire country over the next 5 years.

Embarking on a policy to develop nationwide palliative care services will require a large amount of resources and will not be a sustainable programme if it depends solely on the ministry of health and the government to provide. Therefore the implementation of this policy must be a joint effort from both the government and other parties such as universities, medical schools, civil societies, NGO hospices, private healthcare services, corporate bodies and finally the people of Malaysia itself. Dr. Lim says, “I believe that everything in this policy can be made into a reality if we all work together and realise how every single person can contribute and make a difference to care and share in the simple things that can mean so much to those in need.”

(Official press release)