A New Hospice for Serbia

Why is this needed?

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Serbia.  There are more than 30,000 new diagnoses a year and over 20,000 cancer related deaths every year.

According to some sources Serbia has the highest cancer mortality rate in Europe and there are concerns that this may continue to accelerate – possibly as a legacy from the years of conflict.

More than 5,000 people die from cancer in Belgrade each year.  World Health Organisation figures suggest that Belgrade should have 200 in-patient hospice beds but there are currently none.

We know that approximately one third of terminally ill cancer patients die in Serbian hospitals. Some of those facilities have good quality hospice care units but many do not and one of the challenges facing us in Serbia is to change the attitude towards the terminally ill.  A member of the medical team explains

"As a young doctor working in Belgrade's Emergency Medical Service I provided acute medical care for terminally ill patients in moments of exacerbation or complication of their disease and very often witnessed their passing away. During nightshifts the Emergency Medical Service used to take calls from patients suffering from very severe cancer pain needing painkillers. The medical staff found visiting this group of patients time consuming, diverting their attention from the "real" urgent conditions (various sorts of accidental injuries, traffic accidents, heart attacks and strokes, cardiac arrests and etc.)

"When cancer patients were brought to the hospital, the on call doctors would unwillingly examine them and in most cases discharge them quickly. These patients were rarely hospitalised being considered a burden, taking up space from other patients whose conditions could be treated and cured.

It is not known what happens to the cancer sufferers who do not die in hospitals but the likelihood is they are sent home without medical help or counselling and their families must cope with the hugely stressful situation of seeing their loved ones suffering in this way.

What impact will the new hospice make?

We currently focus on caring for patients in their homes and on education and training medical professionals and volunteers.

Whilst the majority of our care will continue to be in the patient’s home the new hospice will mean we can also offer:-

   


          

When complete the new facilities offered will significantly increase the services we offer.  The in-patient unit will give the medical team a better opportunity to deal with issues such as controlling pain and side effects. The day-centre and in-patient unit will also help to relieve the social isolation often experienced by cancer sufferers. The unit will also help prevent “bed blocking” in state hospitals as patients can be transferred to the hospice. 

We are aiming for the Hospice to receive the same designation as a Centre of Excellence for Palliative Care as our hospices in Romania.

The new hospice

A building has been purchased and we developing the project in two separate phases

  • Phase I - renovating the existing building to house the day-care centre, the base for the home care team and the out-patient unit.  This phase will be completed by December 2017
  • Phase 2 – building the new 12-bed in-patient wing and renovating the hospice garden. This phase will be completed by December 2018.

             

When completed the new hospice will provide

  •       500 admissions to the in-patient unit per year (new service)
  •       2,500 home care visits per year
  •       1,000 patients cared for per year (4x the present number)
  •       600 out-patient consultations (new service

 

Views of the medical team

"I still consider the home environment the best for palliative care of terminally ill patients provided that the symptoms can be controlled. Nevertheless there are situations when the progress of the illness or its complications prevents good symptom control at home. The suffering of both the patient and the family increases as well as the distress of the medical staff and makes me feel dissatosfied and helpless as a doctor. In such situations an in-patient hospice is the perfect place for providing the best possible hospice care. Only in an in-patient hospice can a doctor truly put all their knowledge to use and acquire additional experience. The doctor can monitor patients 24 hours a day and prescribe proper medications and routes of their administration.

"An in-patient hospice also gives an experienced doctor the opportunity of teaching younger colleagues directly at a patients' bedside, thus increasing the number of educated medical staff.

         

Help us complete the new Serbian Hospice

You can help us make the new hospice in Serbia a reality by

  • donating to our general appeal
  • buying a brick and having your name or the name of a loved one written on a wall in the hospice garden. The wall will be a lasting monument to the love and generosity of the people who helped build the first Serbian hospice

 

If you would like more information about the new hospice please contact [email protected]

Honorary Patrons Committee

We have an UK Honorary Patrons Committee to oversee the project and ensure proper governance and transparency.  Patrons and Honorary Members are:

Anela Musat

Avram Balabanovic

Dr Oliveria Potparic

Jadranka Dervesivic

Marija Sarenac

Milos Stefanovic

Miroslav Unipan

Natasha Kocsis

Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and Serbia

Rev Goran Spaic

Simon Lawson

Zoka Milan

Norway Project

The Royal Norwegian Embassy has supported our work in Serbia for the second year running.  Through its “Strengthening Civil Society” project it has given BEL a grant of 62,624 euros. This is to be used in part to fund the new hospice – specifically launching the new day-care centre and the out-patient unit - but also to increase the number of patients and their families receiving care at home.

The grant is also being used to educate medical professionals working in the state hospitals and for staff training and recruitment. 27 new volunteers recently celebrated the end of their training.