PALLIATIVE care aims to improve the quality of life of people with serious illnesses by preventing or treating symptoms and side effects of disease and treatment. It also addresses emotional, social, practical, and spiritual problems that illnesses can bring up.*
On the other hand, hospice care is designed to give supportive care to people in the final phase of a terminal illness and focuses on comfort and quality of life, rather than cure. It aims to enable patients to be comfortable and free of pain, so that they live each day as fully as possible.**
Dr. Rumalie Alparaque-Corvera is passionate about improving the quality of palliative and hospice care in the country. “The number of senior citizens in the country is growing more rapidly than the growth of the total population. In 2000, there were 4.6 million senior citizens, representing about 6% of our total population. The Philippine Statistics Authority projects that by the year 2030, senior citizens will make up around 11% of our total population,” Dr. Corvera said during the 2018 “Health for Juan and Juana: Making Universal Healthcare Happen” Forum.
The current president of the Philippine Society for Hospice and Palliative Medicine (PSHPM), Dr. Corvera is also the president and founder of the Ruth Foundation for Palliative and Hospice Care. “We formed the Ruth Foundation in 2012 to enhance the quality of life for those facing advanced illness and age through skilled and compassionate home-based care, palliative and hospice care education and advocacy.” As a nonprofit organization, the foundation relies on funds raised from a variety of sources, including private donations, corporate sponsorship, and fund-raising events.
In 2013, the foundation’s home care nurses, with the support of a multidisciplinary care team of doctors, social workers, clergy, counsellors, therapists, and volunteers, started making home visits to patients. To date, the Ruth Foundation has had 5,547 patient encounters and made 4,037 nurse visits and 2,039 physician visits for patients in 98 barangays in 18 municipalities, mostly in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. The foundation’s patients are referred by the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), barangay officials, social service departments, and private physicians.
Working with partner hospitals and educational institutions, the foundation has provided training in palliative and hospice care to over 800 nurses, volunteers, and other community-based health professionals. In April 2018, the Ruth Foundation signed a Memorandum of Agreement with De La Salle University — Dasmarinas to provide palliative care training for the school’s nursing students in both the undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
“We will continue to partner with local government units, the academe and private health care facilities to enhance the quality of palliative and hospice care in the country,” Dr. Corvera said. “Our goal is to form compassionate communities that will care for people in the final chapters of their lives.”
Dr. Corvera’s presentation was part of the Health for Juan and Juana session on “Private Sector Innovations in Service Delivery Network — Enabling Primary Healthcare.” With her in the session were Dr. Troy Gepte who discussed the Palawan Access to Medicines Partnership Program-Tulay sa Kalusugan, and Dr. Paul Darroca who spoke about FamilyDoc’s contributions to providing access to health care.
Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). Medicine Cabinet is a weekly PHAP column that aims to promote awareness on public health and health care-related issues. PHAP and its member companies represent the research-based pharmaceutical and health care industry.