Palliative care – two words that carry significant meaning for critically ill patients as they enter the final phase of their lives, particularly when it comes to ensuring their dignity and quality of life.
Grünenthal has been actively involved in this field for many years. In 1998, company patriarch Michael Wirtz founded the Grünenthal Foundation for Palliative Medicine. The foundation promotes science and research in the field of palliative medicine and provides funding for the Chair in Palliative Medicine position at the University of Aachen, Germany. Since it was first created, this position has supported the development of several very valuable outcomes for palliative medicine in Germany and beyond.
High unmet need in Latin America
Palliative care is still at a very basic level in many areas of Latin America. In Peru, for example, around 100,000 patients require access to palliative medicine – but there are only about 100 qualified palliative care specialists. Improvement is urgently needed. In October 2018, the Grünenthal Foundation for Palliative Medicine, the Department of Palliative Medicine at the Medical Faculty RWTH Aachen University, Germany, the Peruvian Society for Palliative Care and the National University of San Marcos organised the international Congress on Palliative Care in Lima. It aimed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and skills related to treating people in the final phase of life, while also raising awareness about the importance of providing high-quality palliative medicine among the scientific and political communities, as well as across society as a whole.
Many topics covered at congress
The topics covered during the congress ranged from palliative medicine for special groups like children and patients with dementia through to pain therapy, holistic approaches, advanced care planning, and educating physicians and care staff. The participants also spent time focusing on ethical and spiritual considerations for the final phase of life, as well as ensuring the dignity of elderly and frail patients.
Michael Wirtz, Chair of the Grünenthal Foundation for Palliative Medicine, emphasised the foundation’s commitment to promoting education and training in palliative care for physicians and care staff. Cooperative activities with the Medicine department at the National University of San Marcos and the University of San Martin de Porres are now well under way.
Initiative to expand access to palliative care in Latin America
The Grünenthal Foundation for Palliative Medicine, with the support of the Latin American Association of Palliative Care (ALCP), the Latin American Federation of Associations for the Study of Pain (FEDELAT) and the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC), led an initiative which marks a milestone in palliative care in Latin America. They held the first high-level meeting to generate a proactive dialogue to improve access and palliative care in the region. The summit brought together more than 130 authorities and experts from the region, who signed a "Proposal for action" to improve access to these services in Latin America. The most relevant points include: The need to include palliative care in national public policies, the allocation of public resources to cover these services at all levels of care, timely access to the essential package of medications and the integration of basic training in palliative care in all the undergraduate curricula of the health area.