Rising Stronger in times of a Pandemic

The Lien Collaborative for Palliative Care project was co-developed by the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHN) and the Lien Foundation.

This initiative seeks to match the supply of expert resource and knowledge to the demand from developing countries for such skills and know-how so as to build Palliative Care capabilities in a systematic, impactful and sustainable way. It draws on philanthropy, tertiary educational institutions, palliative care service providers and individuals to collaborate on a project designed to strengthen Palliative Care capacity and leadership. The project aims to help build Palliative Care capacity in the Asia Pacific region and to integrate this with the mainstream government health system. Its focus is on countries with little or no services.

The pandemic in 2020 has challenged our ability to travel and continue our journey to deliver our Palliative Care training. Very quickly, the faculty got together and decided to shift the face to face training to online virtual classroom teachings. We complemented the teachings by setting up various support groups using social media platforms to allow exchange of information and discussion online.

This year, we are into the fourth run of our CTC (Cancer Treatment Centre) Training in India. The year long training programme started with the completion of the CTC4 Foundation Course in Jan 2020. The unprecedented participation had seen a record of 17 Institutions with 63 participants attended the training. Due to COVID-19, we immediately switched the teaching through virtual classrooms instead. We started with the Clinical Case Discussion three times a week after office hours so that the off-duty doctors and nurses could continue to attend. We were utterly impressed with the commitment from all the respected faculty and the learning attitudes of the CTC4 participants – some of them attended in their full PPE (personal protective equipment) while still in their hospital right after their COVID duties!

With the success of the CTC4 Clinical Case Discussion in India, the Lien Collaborative Faculty decided to extend the teachings to include the past batches of participants including CTC1, CTC2 and CTC3. The training has now been extended to the Bangladesh participants who had requested to join. The CTC Clinical Case Discussion was made available simultaneously through Zoom and Facebook Live. To date, we have conducted more than 50 case discussions with the CTC participants. The participants have benefited vastly as this would not have been made available if not for the COVID-19 lockdown – Lien Collaborative work has flourished even during the pandemic!

The Lien Collaborative for Palliative Care programme has had programmes covering India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Timor Leste. During the pandemic, the various discussion groups became active again (virtually), this time discussion on Palliative Care during the Pandemic. For instance, in Bhutan, we are able to share our experiences with our participants based on our first-hand experience on how Singapore tackled the pandemic situation during the lockdown. The Lien Collaborative participants were also invited to Zoom sessions setup by the APHN where various experts from around the region including Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan shared their best practices during the pandemic. It was also during this period that the Sri Lanka participants initiated a WhatsApp group discussion to discuss cases about paediatrics palliative care.

Year 2020 has been a challenging year thus far for everyone including the Lien Collaborative for Palliative Care cohort. Nevertheless, with the relentless effort and contribution from the faculty, we have emerged stronger and better and have not stopped since the COVID-19 lockdown. Here’s looking forward to a better 2021!

Written by: Mr Giam Cheong Leong (APHN Executive Director)