Project Hamrahi – Pushpagiri, Kerala

October 2010


Pushpagiri Palliative Care Service
Dr Thampi Thomas (Medical Director of Unit)
Dr Jacob, volunteer and physician

Dr Sok-Hui Goh
Dr Andrew Goh

Pallium India
Prof. Rajagopal, Chairman and Founder

The Pain and Palliative Care Society, Pushpagiri began in 2002, where the main thrust is to look after cancer patients at the last stage of their lives. It largely caters for the poor and those from the lower strata of society. Apart from symptom control, the society also helps families of patients who die or those who become incapacitated at the early stage of their illness in the form of construction of homes (2) and education – putting 5 girls through nursing school. Apart from caring for cancer patients, the Society embraces patients who are bed bound from various causes such as paraplegia from MVA, spinal cord compression, paraneoplastic syndrome, myositis ossificans etc. They manage regular foley cather change monthly (sialastic catheters too expensive) as well as supervising pressure area care. There are no domicillary care services and all the care is provided by family members.

Pushpagiri provides all the infra structure facilities such as Out-Patient Clinic, In-patient ward, an office, as well as doctors, nursing and other paramedical staff. The donation of a van has enhanced the service, enabling them to conduct home visits and operate an outreach outpatient clinic. Often patients are found to be too poor to find the fares to attend the outpatient clinic at Pushpagiri Hospital.

The unit is glued together by Reverend AC Kurian, Vicar General who tirelessly campaigns for financial support and volunteerism. There is a core of dedicated volunteers who enables this service to run on donations from both local and overseas benefactors. There is no social security or medicare funding for patients – this unit’s major thrust is for the poor, by covering patient’s costs of medical treatment including consultations, investigations and medication. Pushpagiri hospital (a private Catholic hospital) provides the infrastructure (a 20 bed ward and OPD clinic) and pays the salaries of Dr Thampi and nurse aides.

Morphine availability – they have access to 1.5kg oral morphine tablets (10 & 20 mg tabs) per year through Dr Thampi (the only person who has the permit to access and prescribe the medication)

Dr Sok-Hui’s main activities were clinical, attending ward rounds with Dr Thampi, an anaesthetist, and Dr Jacob, outpatient clinics and going on home visits. The home visit team included a volunteer coordinator, intern, auxillary nurse and driver. The team saw a total of 11 patients. Some of the homes were far away, in the poorer areas. Some were over 20kms away. The home visits proved to be “the highlight of my experience as I was able to engage the whole team in informal hands on teaching and general discussion on the precepts of palliative care”. Other teaching included to the interns who rotated weekly through the unit, and to nurses, including an interactive session on self care and spiritual care of patients and demonstrating the subcut route of giving injections.

Finally, it was agreed that further visits would not be planned for this unit, as they had a well developed and developing model of care.

Hippocratic film applauded across Australia

Hippocratic Film Header

With only one city remaining in the Australian launch of the biographical documentary, Hippocratic, it is clear that the film has had great impact here.

One important feature has been the opportunity for Q&A after the movie, where audience members have a chance to delve deeper into the issues raised in the film, such as trying to understand the distressing ongoing shortage of morphine, an essential medication in pain management, a shortage that affects over 80% of the world’s population.

This issue alone should galvanise us to action, to demand change and accountability. However, long time advocates in this field know only too well how difficult it is to bring about change and improvements here.

Films such as Hippocratic are too few and APLI thanks Moonshine Movies for their commitment to contributing to change in a creative and positive way.


Donate to APLI online : BSB 063 806; Acct 10160981

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