Projects in Serbia

A New Hospice Centre

Our main project in Serbia with BELhospice is the exciting development of Serbia's first ever purpose built hospice centre.

Phase 1 is already completed and was officially opened on 17th October 2018. It will introduce two new services  - an out-patient unit and a day-care centre.  It is anticipated these services will be available in the first quarter of 2019.  

Phase 1 development underway

The completed building at the Official Opening 



Phase 1 will also house the existing home care teams and the education and training department. 



The new day-care centre


What impact will the new hospice centre make?

 When fully operational we estimate that annually Phase 1 will provide:-

  • 600 out-patient consultations (new service)
  • At least 2,000 attendances at the day-care centre (new service). This service will also help reduce the social isolation that is often felt by cancer sufferers
  • An increase in the number of home visits by 30% (from 1,767 to an estimated 2,300)
  • At least 1,000 counselling and bereavement sessions
  • More suitable premises for the home visits team and the education and training department

Some members of the BELhospice team in the new out-patients unit 

Next steps

The long term aim for this project is to open the first ever purpose built in-patient unit in Serbia (Phase 2). We are in the process of agreeing the design and seeking consents for this Phase. We estimate this phase will cost more than 500,000 euros. 

    Why is the new centre needed?

    Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Serbia.  There are more than 30,000 new diagnoses 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 6,000 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. Very few of these facilities have any palliative care units and those that do exist are understaffed and underfunded and do not offer multi disciplinary care. 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.


    Norway Project

    The Royal Norwegian Embassy has supported BELhospice.  Through its “Strengthening Civil Society” project it has given BELhospice a grant of 62,624 euros. This has been used in part to fund Phase 1 of the new hospice centre– 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 hospice volunteers were trained through this scheme.