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January 11, 2013

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Comfort of hospice care to spread to all hospitals

LI Shunshui, 30, said he felt relieved after his mother, who has terminal lung cancer, was hospitalized at a hospice ward in the Huajing Neighborhood Health Center for palliative care.

"Her bedsore has healed and her appetite also improved after coming here since late last year," Li said. "I am the only child at home and my father died years ago. I have no time or energy to take care of my mother at home."

Li's mother is a typical of patients needing hospice services in the city, where more than 36,000 people die of cancer every year and about 70 percent of terminal patients need hospice care.

The lack of such services has been a gap in local health care.

Shanghai started a pilot program last year after the son of a terminal lung cancer patient wrote to the top city officials, complaining his father was turned away by big hospitals and the family had to fake his medical record to obtain hospital treatment for him.

Shanghai designed a hospice ward program, which has started on a trial basis in 18 neighborhood health centers in all 16 districts and Chongming County. More than 300 terminal patients have passed away at such hospice wards, which reduce patients' pain, improve their quality of life and offer psychological guidance.

Painkillers, which are the key medicines used in hospice care, will be paid for by the government and charity groups.

Shanghai plans within three years to establish hospice wards for patients with terminal cancer in all community hospitals and district- and city-level hospitals to offer high-quality palliative care, Shanghai Health Bureau said yesterday.

The hospice care program was prompted by Qin Ling, a Shanghai teacher who wrote online about the helpless situation of his father after at least two public hospitals last year rejected to admit his father, a terminal cancer patient then.

"I was helpless and bewildered when I was told by one hospital after another that they could not take him in," he said in a microblog in February last year. He called on authorities to help families avoid seeing loved ones with cancer die in despair, without medicine or a hospital bed.

Huang Fengping, vice director of the bureau, said the program is available to all residents including those from other provinces and expatriates.

"Patients who need such service can apply through the neighborhood health centers offering the service and may be hospitalized after passing an evaluation," he said.


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