Ali Xhixha, MD, Team Leader, Ryder Albania Association, Tirana, Albania, explains how a small group of committed people really can change the world…
It was brought to life 20 years ago. A child always brings changes into your life – good ones. Ryder Albania was conceived in Rome, Italy, then delivered in Tirana, Albania – the idea of a group of people who were dealing with pain every day of their lives. It took some time for the idea to take shape, but when it happened it was the right idea and it was shaped out of a passion for caring for those in need. Our efforts of so many years came to fruition on 16 October when Albania passed the first Palliative Care Laws that we hope will make a huge difference to terminally ill patients and their families.
Ryder Albania Association is a non-profit organisation providing care for patients with life-threatening illnesses. Established first in Tirana then in Durres, Ryder Albania Association is now the leading palliative care organisation in the country. In accordance with its objectives, Ryder Albania worked tirelessly lobbying and advocating to raise awareness of the decision makers, and drafting, in collaboration with specialists, important documents, strategies and plans.
Low- and middle-income countries, including Albania, face a disproportionate lack of access to palliative care and pain-relieving medicines such as morphine. We are faced with a lack of social support for patients and their families, yet in the developing world we see such great achievements in this respect.
But with the strong support of partners such as the Open Society for Albania, international expert Stephen Connor, the Albanian National Association for Palliative Care, and other care providers we were eventually able to initiate the process for presenting a law for palliative care. Much hard work and many efforts went into lobbying, advocating and finally drafting the Palliative Care Law in Albania.
On 16 October 2014, in a plenary session, our parliament voted and approved the Palliative Care Law in Albania. Every sentence of the draft that we (the working group) had drawn up was discussed in detail and plans were made to include as many benefits as possible for patients and families, and to develop and fund services (including non-governmental organisations). We also included plans to implement appropriate palliative care policies, to include palliative care as an integral component of education, to access palliative care, including the need for essential medicines, and to overcome legislative barriers to access opioids, to ensure that palliative care is an integral component of health system plans. This is the result of many years of advocacy and sustained efforts of many palliative care contributors. We are privileged to have been part of the drafting and the process.
This sweet child of ours has given hope for so many patients in Albania who need care and pain relief.