A wealth of experience at IAPCON Coimbatore 2017

Karen Anderson and Conference delegates

Dr T. Balaji, the Organising Secretary for the IAPCON 2017 together with the varied Conference Scientific Committees and the Local and Supporting Committees arranged and warmly hosted a stimulating and highly enriching 24th International Palliative Care Conference in Coimbatore in February. With 1,000 registrants this year the pre-conference and conference days provided ample opportunities for engaging with others, sharing ideas and illuminating discussions and making valuable global links. The IAPCON Coimbatore 2017 Conference aim to ‘Add Value’ to advancing and promoting awareness, learning, right decisions and care to the end in regards to the understanding of palliative care and end of life issues and concerns was most certainly achieved.

The combination of quality, highly relevant research and clinical practice papers and presentations demonstrated the significant work and application of resourcefulness many dedicated people are already doing on all continents across the world in the palliative care and end-of-life-care field.  The move towards continuing to enhance community based services and practices which actively engage families was strongly emphasised throughout the conference. This was highlighted in the words of one presenter, ‘We are good at giving care to a few but we need to innovate to reach increasing numbers.” Dr Karl Lorenz (USA) spoke of “stories as being the most powerful tool to make change.” Thus, quality measures and audits supported with stories validate and give power to navigate obtaining vital resources. This led me to thinking how stories of palliative care and end-of-life care are abundant in all communities, villages and populations around the world and how it would be advantageous to make greater use of patients’, families’ and professionals’ stories. The wisdom poignantly conveyed in the short You Tube clip titled ‘Last Words’ released by IAPC in 2016 and the stories of people from across cultures suffering with unrelieved pain shown in the film ‘Life Before Death’ both aptly illustrate the ability telling and sharing stories has to educate.

Psychosocial issues were well addressed in this conference. Of particular interest to me were the presentations delivered in the segment titled, ‘Hidden Lives Hidden Populations’. Dr Savita Duomai’s (New Delhi) presentation, ‘Caring for Transgenders with HIV’ deeply moved the audience. Similarly, Dr Brett Sutton’s plenary address regarding Palliative Care and Humanitarian Aid highlighted the enormity of challenges faced bringing international palliative care guidelines to the humanitarian response.

A standout message expressed by many of the presenters is to address demands presented by the global ageing population – those living with escalating levels of frailty and dementia. An innovative and creative challenge was offered by Mr Shyam Viswanathan, a technology expert when he asked us the question, “Do we see a future with a virtual hospice?” He stated this is more possible now and it is imperative we include technology into palliative care services – high tech, high touch!

There are numerous and unique tests we as a global community have thrust upon us in this era. We each need to speak out, tell our stories, and extend our minds and hands across cultures and borders to enable a greater awareness about end-of-life care and inclusion of palliative care principles for the better well-being of all humanity. Come and join us at the IAPCON New Delhi 2018.

Karen Anderson
ECU Lecturer, Counselling and Psychotherapy
Perth, Western Australia

Project Focus

As some of you may be aware, in early 2016 the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHN) held four ‘APHN Dialogs’, in which clinicians across the Asia Pacific region could link in through Skype to attend a webinar. The following webinars took place:

- A discussion of palliative care service development in the Asia Pacific region, presented by Odette Spruyt
- Pain control in palliative care by Yoshiyuki Kizawa from Kobe, Japan
- Management of the cancer wound by Edward Poon from Singapore
- Bereavement care by Jun-Hua Lee from Taiwan

These sessions were well received and provided a valuable opportunity for clinicians in different countries to learn from an expert in that field and also to share their own professional experiences. Unfortunately, not all countries in the region have reliable internet coverage or sufficient bandwidth so some attendees were unable to join the meetings. In response to this, in recent months APLI has been looking at a new educational initiative in partnership with APHN.

Project Focus aims to set up online discussion groups between palliative care clinicians in specific countries in the Asia Pacific region and APLI mentors. Some nascent palliative care centres struggle with isolation, limited practitioner experience and variable institutional support. In effect, Project Focus would work towards similar objectives to Project Hamrahi: to improve the capacity for best practice patient care in the local setting and to reduce the isolation of palliative care providers in emergent services.

APLI is therefore calling for expressions of interest for mentors to volunteer their services to help support our regional partners. Project Focus would particularly suit clinicians who might otherwise find it difficult to travel overseas for mentoring work, as the contact will be online using a small group discussion format on the ‘Slack’ communication platform. APHN has already identified local clinicians in two separate services in remote and regional Indonesia who would like to be partnered with APLI mentors. In addition to this, there has also been some interest from doctors in Vietnam, Brunei and Nepal whose learning needs were unable to be supported by the APHN Dialogs.

Although the exact process will be flexible, it is proposed that education would begin with case presentations from the local APHN clinicians. These would then serve as a springboard for the APLI mentors to explain current evidence based practice recommendations. The subsequent discussion would then take into account local factors such as medication availability, local resources, staffing and other factors such that a viable and culturally appropriate management plan can be formulated.

I hope that you will share our excitement for this initiative. Project Hamrahi has demonstrated the value of teams of mentors made up of both doctors and nurses working together with local Indian clinicians over a sustained period of time. Project Focus has the potential to broaden the scope of such partnerships to other countries and so I invite you to contact me via chairman@apli.net.au with a short biography and reflection on why you would wish to work as a mentor.

- Anil Tandon


Your donations to APLI help in the following ways:

assist with training of doctors and nurses in palliative care practice in developing nations

support nurses to travel and teach as part of Project Hamrahi

help with purchase of critical site resources such as essential equipment and supplies,  medicines and educational materials