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Bihar to have palliative care policy, dedicated beds in hospitals

All medical college hospitals and district hospitals in Bihar will have 10-20 beds for palliative care, aimed at improving the quality of life of both terminally ill patients and their caregivers, people familiar with the matter said.

“The 10-bed palliative care centre at Muzaffarpur’s Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital (SKMCH) will be ready within a month,” said Dr Ravikant Singh, officer-in-charge of the Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (HBCH&RC) at Muzaffarpur, which comes under atomic energy department of the government of India, which is also helping the state formulate a palliative care strategy.

It will, however, take some time to develop similar palliative care centres at the Bhagwan Mahavir Institute of Medical Sciences at Pawapuri in Nalanda district, besides Begusarai and Siwan, where sites are yet to be finalised.

Though the state government decided early this year to have six palliative care centres, one each at Patna, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Begusarai, Nalanda and Siwan, it signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Centre to establish them through the HBCH&RC only a couple of months back. The Centre had communicated its approval to the state’s demand of ₹48 lakh for the palliative care centres in June.

The Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH) will host the centre in Patna. The one in Bhagalpur will be housed in a pre-fabricated structure on the hospital campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College.

Currently, the major care providers for palliative care are centered in Patna at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) and the Mahavir Cancer Sansthan and Research Centre (MCSRC), apart from the HBCH&RC, Muzaffarpur.

The state policy draft on palliative care will set the agenda for the next 10 years. It will also seek to provide basic level to advanced level palliative care services in the next few years, said Dr Singh.

“We will have a short, medium and long-term action plan for the state. The short-term action plan will focus on capacity building and training of healthcare workers, including community health officers, doctors and nurses. For the training, we will involve experts from AIIMS-Delhi and Patna, as well as other established institutes,” Dr Singh said.

Dr Umesh Bhadani, dean (academics) and professor-cum-head, department of anaesthesiology, AIIMS-Patna, is supporting the state in training of personnel in palliative care.

“We have an 18-bed dedicated palliative care unit, six trained faculty members and over 60 trained nurses. We are one of the two (the other is IGIMS) training centres in Bihar of the Indian Association of Palliative Care for over a month-long certificate course in palliative care. If the state wants, we will train its personnel in palliative care,” said Dr Bhadani.

Over 60% of patients with advanced stages of cancer and other terminally ill patients need palliative care in Bihar, the third largest state by population, with an estimated count of 127 million. Unfortunately, less than 5% of them have access to it, as only Patna and Muzaffarpur, out of Bihar’s 38 districts, currently have access to palliative care services, according to the state’s draft policy on palliative care.

India’s first pain clinic and palliative care service was set up at the Gujarat Cancer Research Institute, Ahmedabad, in 1980, said people familiar with the matter. Hindustan Times

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