Palliative care keeps developing in Armenia, the main purpose of which is to provide the highest life quality opportunities for cancer and terminal patients. It implies pain relief and psychological, social and mental suppport from respective professionals.
The definition of palliative care is cited in the new draft law by the healthcare ministry, and highly important provisions on such care are included in the amendments to the RA law “On Drugs and Psychotropic Substances”. These processes are regulated by the ministry and the results are obvious.
The amendments are related to ensuring the availability of morhine and other pain-relief opioids, elimination of the restrictions for the phisicians prescribing those medications, as well as recognition of palliative care as a crucial component of the country’s healthcare system. There is progress also in terms of developing educational projects and trainings in palliative care for healthcare professionals.
Four pilote projects on palliative care have been carried out over the past 18 months with the support of the healthcare ministry and financial assistance of Global Fund. The projects were implemneted at the National Oncology Center after Fenerjyan, CJSC, Ararat Medical Center, CJSC, University policlinics N1 at Yerevan State Medical University after Heratsi, and Vanadsor’s Hospital Complex N1 after Areshyan, CJSC. The project results for the first year of implementation have shown that the 132 patients under palliative care have registered pain relief and improved life quality.
National palliative care strategy has been developed due to the efforts of the healthcare ministry and finacial and technical (expert) assistance of Open Society Funds-Armenia, and Open Society Institute’s International Palliative Care Initiative. The startegy has been approved by the governemt; new clinical guidelines and standards for palliative care have bee drafted as well. The new policies are expected to be approved along with the legislative and sublegislative changes.
Ministry’s chief of staff Krmoyan says the legislative changes and professional training of the medical personnel will comtribute to the improvement of palliative care quality and the solution of the pain relief drugs’ availability issue.
“We are now working full-force around the import issue of non-injection morphine, because in Armenia we have only imported morphine for intervenous injections, which is dificult to use, is painful and around five times more expensive than the oral morphine tablets”, says Krmoyan.
Annually around 18,000 patients need palliative care in Armenia, specialized palliative medical assistance centers. Strong pain-killers are often not easy to get, homecare outside the pilote project framework is not available, healthcare professionals do not have necessary academic background and skills in palliative care. These are the issues that remain to be in the focus of attetion for the ministry, which promises that along with its partners it would find solutions in the foreseeable future.
Dr. Connor, Ph.D., Senior Executive of Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA), who now serves as a part time consultant to the Open Society Institute’s International Palliative Care Initiative, says “progress is obvious in Armenia, although there is still a lot to be done”.
“We have assessed the work carried out during the first year of pilote projects and the condition of the 132 beneficiaries of the projects, who were suffering mid severity and acute pain. Palliative care helped to improve not only the quality of their lives, but also their families’,” says Dr. Connor.