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Hotel sport, in the beautiful mountain resort of Poiana Brașov, provided the venue for Romania's first Hospice Conference for 3 days during April 1992. A group of 18 people flew out from England to attend the conference. Graham Perolls writes...

We had been planning the conference for many months so when the day finally came we were full of expectation. 80 Romanian delegates had registered prior to the Conference and, with the English contingent, we had catered for 100. Half an hour before the end of registration an anxious administrator informed me that so far 150 had arrived!

Of course it was impossible to turn anyone away and the Hotel staff managed admirably with their limited resources. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and emotion and this continued throughout the whole Conference. 

I was able to give the welcoming address in Romanian (I had practiced long and hard with the help of Dr. Voinicu), a gesture which I think was greatly appreciated by the Romanians. Norman Daniels then set the scene for the Conference and this was followed by speeches from the newly elected Mayor of Brașov and the Director of Brașov Health Authority who offered their full support and encouragement for the Casa Speranţei Project. After dinner, Mrs. Prue Clench gave a moving talk about the Hospice Movement, its concept, development and growth. 

The second day began with a talk by Dr. Voinicu giving his impressions of Hospice from his visit to England. The second session was taken by Dr. Mary Baines who gave an excellent introduction to the principles of pain control. She illustrated her talk with slides supported by subtitles in Romanian. The question time that followed revealed an enormous interest in this subject. 

The final session of the day, in which various speakers participated, was on the subject of communication. The concept of spending time talking to patients and their families, and being truthful about the diagnosis and prognosis obviously struck a chord in the minds of many delegates. 

In the evening a concert was given in our honour by the children of Brașov Music School. This was a moving experience - the children were extremely talented and this lovely gesture was greatly appreciated by us all.

The third day, Saturday, commenced with an excellent talk on Home-Care by Nic Gommersal, and the final session 'A Hospice for Brașov' was shared by Norman Daniels and myself. I outlined the background to the Project and stressed that Hospice was much more than just a building - it was a concept of care which could be provided in a variety of settings, although the principles of care were always the same. It was for this reason that Project 'Casa Speranţei' would begin by providing care and training within the Oncology Hospital and support for patients and their families in their own homes. Norman Daniels gave the audience details of negotiations to date regarding a site for a Hospice building, together with information about voluntary work undertaken in Brașov since the revolution, in particular health education relating to HIV awareness.

The question time at the end of the final session became more of an opportunity for speeches by delegates. Many expressed in heartwarming terms their appreciation of the Conference and their wholehearted support for 'Casa Speranţei'. 

We all felt that the Conference had far exceeded our expectations and that this was the beginning of something very exciting. We would particularly like to pay tribute to the management and staff at the Hotel Sport, who worked so hard to provided the very best they could offer in terms of facilities and food.

The City of Brașov

The City of Brașov - Romania's second city, has a population of 400,000 but the Health Authority serves a population of nearly 1,000,000. This picture shows clearly the contrast between the older dwellings of Brașov (many of which have been demolished) and the vast areas of concrete tenement blocks which have replaced them under Ceaușescu's systemization programme.

The Brasov Conference

The Brașov Concerence created a great deal of interest among local doctors because it attempted to address important questions which are rarely tackled in conventional medical training - in Romania or elsewhere. And yet these topics arise daily in a cancer ward - how to control pain and other distressing symptoms, what to say to patients and their relatives, the best place for someone to die. 

But to sustain and develop interest, the message of the Conference needs to be applied. Fortunately Casa Speranţei will start in a small ward at the Oncology Hospital with an English nurse working there. And the young oncologists are keen to give regular oral analgesia to control pain, even though many of the drugs we use are not yet available to them. 

However, a separate Hospice is urgently needed. This will care for more patients, both on the wards and in their own homes. It will also act as a centre, the first in Romania, for the training of doctors and nurses in the skills of Palliative CAre. Judging from the interest shown at the Conference, there are many doctors who are keen to learn - Dr. Mary Baines.