Hospice and palliative care are still relatively new concepts in the Belarusian health and social care sphere. Below you can read about our work in spreading hospice care throughout Belarus, and our link to the wonderful children’s hospice in Minsk.
Anna Gorchakova was a psychologist at the Children’s Cancer Hospital and she became acutely aware of the need to give support at home to children whose treatment had failed, so that they could die free from pain and with their family around them.
15 years ago she established the Belarusian Children’s Hospice to support such children in the Minsk area. We have worked with Anna to organise visits of hospice nurses to the UK and to take Macmillan and CLIC and hospice nurses to Belarus.
When the current hospice building was bought, largely with the support of UK charity ‘Friends of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice’, we were able to help fund the alteration work. We have also supported the development of the holiday camp where children and families can stay in the summer; purchased a minibus, and contributed to the respite care programme.
In January 2000 we established the first children’s ‘home hospice’ in Gomel, outside Minsk (see below). Since then, small hospice teams have been set up in Vitebsk, Mogilev (through an Irish charity), Pinsk (funded by Chernobyl Children, Rye) Slonim (supported by Heart, Hope, Help) from the UK and there are now nurses in several parts of Gomel Region.
During the past ten years we have funded a Palliative Care Team in Gomel City, recently working closely with the Mayflower Centre and gaining professional advice and support from the Hospice in Minsk. They supported around 20 families with home care and advice.
Now that the Health Department in Gomel plans to set up a palliative care programme we have decided to work in a different way and give us much support as possible to the devleopment of official palliative care for both children and adults.
We will continue to bring doctors and nurses from Belarus on visits to the UK, and to send palliative care specialists from Britain to Belarus to give advice and training. We are particularly grateful for the help we have had from Francis House Children’s Hospice in Manchester and Severn Hospice in Shrewsbury, and we have also been welcomed at Hannah House and Martin House Children’s Hospices in Yorkshire; Spring Hill Hospice in Rochdale, St. Ann’s Hospice, Manchester; Hope House, near Oswestry and Acorns in Birmingham.
We now have a Palliative Care Consultant to help us in our work. John Costello is a nurse and senior lecturer in palliative care in Manchester. He has recently spent time giving training to develop the adult hospice care programme in Belarus, and he will work closely with Anna Gorchakova to steer our future hospice work.
We have a new Home Palliative Care team in Gomel, headed by Dr Irina Kalmanovich. With two nurses and a psychologist Irina is providing medical, social and emotional support to 25 families living in the city whose children have severe genetic disorders, life limiting conditions or terminal illnesses.
Click here to see the Belarusian Children’s Hospice website.