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April 25, 2014

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1,000 more palliative care beds to be made available before year-end

THE city government is planning to make an extra 1,000 beds available this year for people in need of palliative care toward the end of their lives, a senior health official said yesterday.

The authorities will establish an initial network of services before the end of the year and roll it out across the city within three years, said Xu Su, deputy inspector of the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission, at an industry symposium.

“Access to palliative care should be seen as a human right for everyone. It is also a symbol of social progress,” Xu said.

Shanghai is the first city in China to promote palliative care from a government level. Since 2012, 226 beds have been available for terminally ill patients at 18 facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, and last year they were used by more than 2,800 people.

“We hope that through palliative care we can help to relieve not only people’s physical pain, but also their psychological suffering,” Xu said.

There are currently more than 81,000 very elderly and terminally ill people in Shanghai who are in need of palliative care. Many of them are suffering from cancer, which claimed 3.7 million lives last year, and can cause sufferers enormous pain, he said.

While palliative care is still a new concept in China, Xu was keen to point out its suitability for the terminally ill. Not least from an economic point of view.

The average medical costs incurred by the people who used palliative care beds last year was less than 5,500 yuan (US$880), while the daily bed cost was 180 yuan, or less than a fifth of the cost of a standard hospital bed, he said.

Hu Qingli, the former deputy director-general of the World Health Organization, told the symposium that palliative care is a “world issue that is very pressing in Shanghai, which has the most serious aging problem in China.”

In a survey of 119 Shanghai residents in the advanced stages of cancer, 60 percent said they had accepted their fate and were ready to die.

About a third said they didn’t want to receive excessive amounts of treatment, while the rest said they wanted anything that was available.


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