Staff members of a Maltese hospice foster experience exchange in Aachen Germany

Keen on sharing and gaining know-how and experience, the fourth Maltese trio paid the Department of Palliative Medicine of the University Hospital RWTH in Aachen a visit in the first week of March. Dr Jurgen Abela, a physician, Luisa Bugeja, a social worker and Radharani Agrawal, a physical therapist, all working for the Hospice Malta. In the past, other members of the Maltese Hospice such as chaplain, nurse and head of the Hospice have been to Aachen. 

In 2016 the cooperation between the experts of palliative medicine from Aachen and Malta progressed from an initial contact between Tania Pastrana, MD (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Palliative Medicine, University Hospital RWTH Aachen) and the internationally renowned Professor Max Watson (Professor at the University of Ulster, honorary and senior lecturer at Queens University in Belfast) from Ireland, to a corporate work exchange on a regular basis.

On the Maltese side the Malta Hospice Movement was founded 4th January 1989 when the founding members assumed the role of the first management council formally signed the governing statute of the movement. Hospice Malta, a registered NGO with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organizations, offers all services free of charge to patients in Malta and Gozo.

Hospice Malta offers its services in the community through a professional multidisciplinary team, with the assistance of a number of volunteers. This patient-centred palliative care offer targets the relief of pain and other physical symptoms, as well as caring for emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual issues. Bereavement support is also an integral part of the services provided. Additionally, education, advice and promotion of palliative care remain at the core of Hospice Malta’s services. The Hospice’s education unit provides educational sessions at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels in addition to providing in-service training to staff and volunteers to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and skills. Currently the hospice is managed by Maria Gatt (chair), Kenneth Delia (general manager) and Anna Frendo (manager care services).

Approximately 80 to 90 % of the cost of palliative care in Malta has to be covered by donations, fund-raising and charitable gifts; only 10 to 20 % are funded by the government. Close to 450 palliative patients are registered in Malta and Gozo at the same time. Currently, the Maltese Hospice can only take care of ambulant patients in Malta and Gozo. A residential institution is planned, because the demand for extensive palliative care in a comfortable surrounding for patients during their last days is growing.

The focus of this experience exchange in Aachen was on the practical issues of palliative care. Therefore, the guests from Malta spent a day in the Iterbach Hospice in Walheim (Hospiz am Iterbach) and in the oldest German stationary hospice, Hospiz Haus Hörn in Aachen. With the help of Johannes Wüller, the medical director of the ambulant palliative care service in Aachen (Home Care Städteregion Aachen gemeinnützige GmbH), the ambulatory care of patients in their domestic environment could be followed by the Maltese delegation. They also attended stationary care of palliative patients and the counselling service of the Department of Palliative Medicine at the University Hospital Aachen.

The University of Aachen established the first endowed chair for palliative medicine in Germany based upon regular donations of the Grünenthal Foundation for Palliative Medicine. Treatment and advising methods, a ward with nine palliative beds at Aachen University Hospital for incurable sick and dying patients were developed and established through the 5.9 million euros endowment capital of this foundation through a donation from the personal assets of the longstanding Grünenthal Inc. CEO Michael Wirtz. Every year over 200 people are helped there during the last and most painful phase of their lives. In 1998 Grünenthal founded this Grünenthal Foundation for Palliative Care. It is dedicated to the needs of people with incurable diseases and limited life-expectancies. The foundation promotes science and research in the field of palliative care in the form of a Chair of Palliative Medicine at the University of Aachen. It also supports the care of seriously ill or terminally ill people. The aim is to preserve the quality of life and the dignity of affected people at the end stage of their life.

Professor Roman Rolke, Chair and Director of the Department of Palliative Medicine of the University Hospital Aachen, and his colleagues are looking forward to more Maltese guests as they cherish the professional exchange with the Maltese experts.

For more information: https://hospicemalta.org https://www.hospiz-iterbach.dehttps://www.ukaachen.de/kliniken-institute/klinik-fuer-palliativmedizin.html http://www.haus-hoern.de  https://www.grunenthal.com

Author: Karl-Heinz Oedekoven, Secretary of the GMMS

Picture from left to right: Tania Pastrana MD, Jurgen Abela MD, Radharani Agrawal physical therapist, Jelena von der Maßen stud. cand. med., Heike Reineke-Bracke MD, Luisa  Bugeja social worker, Silvia Degen nurse, Cordula Irlenbusch nurse, Dorothe Pezechk-Engels nurse

Copyright: ©German Maltese Medical Society, Malta

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  1. Societal Impact of Pain (SIP)
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