Indian Journal of Palliative Care
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 ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 500--505

Improving access and quality of palliative care in Kerala: A cross-sectional study of providers in routine practice


1 Department of Projects, Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences and Pallium India, Aisha Memorial Hospital Building, Paruthikuzhy, India
2 Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences and Pallium India, Aisha Memorial Hospital Building, Paruthikuzhy, India
3 Directorate of Health Services, Kerala and State Nodal Officer: NCD, NHM Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
4 Department of Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Care and Epidemiology, Queen's University Cancer Research Institute, Kingston, Canada

Correspondence Address:
M R Rajagopal
Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences and Pallium India, Aisha memorial hospital Building, Paruthikuzhy, Manacaud P.O, Thiruvananthapuram - 695 009, Kerala
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/IJPC.IJPC_17_20

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Background: Expanding access and improving quality of palliative care in low-middle income countries is a pressing priority. Objective: The objective of the study was to describe structure and processes of care across government (GO) and non-GO (NGO) palliative care providers (PCPs) in Kerala, India. Design: This was a cross-sectional telephone survey. Setting/Subjects: This study consisted of 200 randomly selected PCPs across Kerala. The survey explored organizational structure, patient assessment, opioid availability, and explored elements considered essential to palliative care delivery in the Indian context. Results: One hundred GO and 100 NGO PCPs agreed to participate (100% response rate). The annual median number of new patients was 183 and 159 in GO and NGO PCPs, respectively. The median number of annual home visits in GO PCPs was 1398 and in NGO PCPs was 979. Median number of outpatient visits in GO PCPs was 600 and in NGO PCPs was 520. Only 24% (47/200) of the PCPs had full-time physicians with training in palliative care; 60% of GO PCPs had no full time physician with training in palliative care. Patient-reported pain was routinely documented by 21% (21/100) and 65% (65/100) of the GO and NGO sites, respectively (P < 0.001). None of the GO and only 36% (36/100) of NGO PCPs were able to prescribe oral morphine. Psychosocial and spiritual issues were documented routinely in only 4% (4/100) and 48% (47/99) of the GO and NGO PCPs, respectively (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Caution is needed against potential challenges to quality care in any new initiative. Kerala has achieved remarkable success in the coverage of palliative care through hundreds of locally active NGOs through GO machinery involving every primary health center. Yet, there are gaps such as absence of full-time physicians. This study highlights the need for periodic review to identify gaps in care.






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