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Polish Palliative Medicine Association 10th Anniversary

Author: Dr Liz Gwyther, WPCA
08 November 2012
  • Katowice, Poland. Image: Wikimedia

The Polish Palliative Medicine Association (Polski Towarzystwo Medycyny Palliatynej) recently held their 10th Anniversary conference in Wisla in October this year. Professor Sheila Payne, president of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) was one of the plenary speakers.

Prof Payne spoke on: "Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow," using the Beatles famous song “Yesterday” as a theme and linking it to the palliative care journey – yesterday the good times, today the hard realities and tomorrow uncertainty.

The history of palliative care development in Poland is strongly linked with the UK, Dame Cecily Saunders having made 4 visits to Poland. Polish palliative care personnel hold Dame Cecily in high esteem. In addition, Professor Robert Twycross held regular annual workshops offering training in palliative care in the 1980s and 1990s. Many Polish palliative care leaders are well respected in the European palliative care community and have led palliative care development in central and Eastern Europe. Professor Jacek Luczak has recently been awarded a European medal of honour for his work in palliative care.

Palliative care in Poland is based on the UK model of hospice buildings and one of the uncertainties for tomorrow is whether this is a sustainable model going forward. Another uncertainty relates to the fact that many young Polish people are migrating to the UK, Sweden and other European countries for improved economic opportunities. The challenge is that of meeting the care needs of older people who become ill and answering the dilemma of how to care for a family member when you are no longer in your home country.

Prof Payne also visited a hospice in Katowice, Poland, where she met with the Medical Director Dr Artur Pakosz, staff and patients. The hospice is a stand-alone building next to the main hospital.  Once Dr Pakosz had completed his medical and specialist training, he decided he wanted to work in palliative care and took over a derelict building and converted it into the hospice. While the hospice is not based on a religious denomination, some of the nursing staff are nuns and Dr Pakosz is of the Lutheran faith. 

The hospice offers non-denominational care. In a separate building there is an out-patient service and there is also a home care service with medical and nursing domiciliary visits to patients and their families. Prof Payne was at the hospice at visiting time and many patients and family members expressed their appreciation for the care they received. Prof Payne was impressed by the warm, non-hierarchical atmosphere at the hospice. The hospice is funded approximately 80% through the health care system on an itemised billing system and funds are raised separately for non-billable care. The attic of the hospice has meeting rooms and space for educational activities for medical and nursing students.

Prof Payne expressed her appreciation for the invitation to visit Poland and conveyed congratulations to the Polish Palliative Medicine Association on this 10 year milestone.

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