UAE’s first community-powered hospice to boost palliative care in Abu Dhabi

The community will focus on delivering services that address physical, emotional, and psychological needs of patients

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Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 7:13 PM

Last updated: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 7:56 PM

A first-ever state-of-the-art hospice palliative care centre for terminally ill patients with a unique community engagement concept will be coming up in the Capital.

Abu Dhabi-headquartered Burjeel Holdings and London’s St Christopher’s Hospice, recognised as the first modern hospice and a pioneer in palliative care, inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard.

According to medical experts, the first hospice in the UAE will serve as a centre of excellence in palliative care, providing a supportive and tranquil environment for patients and their families.

Dr Neil Arun Nijhawan, consultant hospice and palliative medicine, and director of palliative and supportive care at Burjeel Cancer Institute, told Khaleej Times that a compassionate community will be developed in the UAE with hospice at the focal point.

“With compassionate community, we are looking to harness the sorts of social capital that is within the community. To somehow put those patients and families who need help in touch with people in the community, who can help, and want to help but don’t necessarily know how to. So, this is the whole purpose of a compassionate community.”

Volunteers, community members, or individuals who have cared for a family member who was at the end of life can help set up patient groups, make financial contributions like paying for school fees or repatriation, even have a cup of coffee or spend quality time with a patient among several other forms of engagement.

“People who’ve been through these difficult times can help those who are now going through it for the first time. The compassion community is not taking the place of healthcare, or the social services that exist, but will complement and fill in the gaps.”

Dr Nijhawan said the idea is to build a connected community across the UAE.

“We are going to develop the first hospice in the UAE, in Abu Dhabi. My aspiration is that hospice can be the focal point for the compassionate community. We’re trying to pull together all the groups in the community that are already doing something. Build a resource that sort of combines these things. So, it’s like almost one single point of access.”

The compassionate community will focus on delivering palliative care services that address the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of patients with life-limiting illnesses. The first-of-its-kind facility equipped with hi-tech medical equipment and staffed by a dedicated team of professionals with expertise in palliative care is expected to be established at Burjeel Medical City or a new piece of land.

Making lasting change in healthcare

Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation, who graced the signing ceremony, noted the partnership is an opportunity to make a positive, lasting change in healthcare.

“I am confident this partnership will not only benefit the two institutions but will also contribute to serving the community. Through such collaborations, we can face challenges, seize opportunities, and create a better tomorrow,” Sheikh Ahmed said.

The MoU was signed on behalf of Burjeel Holdings by Omran Al Khoori, member, board of directors, and president of business development, and on behalf of St Christopher’s Hospice by Dr Heather Richardson, director of education, research, and end-of-life policy.

John Sunil, CEO of Burjeel Holdings, noted: “This collaboration signifies our commitment to enhancing palliative care services in the UAE and underscores our dedication to providing the highest quality healthcare services to our community.”

Dr Heather underlined: “The collaboration between our two entities will have a lasting impact on individuals and their families facing life-limiting illnesses in the UAE.”

Prof Abdel Rahman Ahmed Omer, group medical director, Burjeel Holdings, Dr Aysha Al Mahri, deputy CEO of Burjeel Medical City, and Naser Al Riyami, COO – projects, Burjeel Holdings, among others attended the event.

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