Dr Martin Loučka, Director of the The Center for Palliative Care, Prague, explains how the new centre aims to advance palliative care in the country.
Readers who attended the 13th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care in Prague in 2013 will remember that despite unfriendly weather it was a great conference full of inspiring presentations. It was also an important milestone for the palliative care community in the Czech Republic as hosting the event brought significant attention to palliative care from media and policy makers. Another important outcome started inconspicuously during a coffee break, while sitting with a cup of tea in our hands and discussing the future of Czech palliative care with my colleagues Ondrej Slama, Ladislav Kabelka and Marek Uhlir. We shared a dream of an academic centre, which would advance palliative care in our country through systematic research and education. Motivated by the atmosphere of the conference we started putting a plan together.
We created a vision for the very first academic unit in the country, focusing specifically on palliative care. But, typically, funding was a challenge. I was a little jealous as I browsed websites of US and Western European centres, generously supported by philanthropists or charities. Because of the historical development of my country, and the general lack of resources during the communistic era, there is not a very strong tradition of donating money among the Czech population. Therefore it was a huge surprise when I learned about AVAST, a philanthropic foundation established by a Czech IT company (a worldwide leader in security software development). The AVAST Foundation was looking for a subject to support and finally chose palliative care as the field they wanted to help grow in our country. The mission of our centre matched perfectly the aims of the foundation and we submitted a successful proposal. On 2 October 2014, we officially launched the Center for Palliative Care with a symposium attended by clinicians and academics from across the country and from neighbouring Slovakia. We were honoured by plenary lectures from Professor Sheila Payne and Professor Claudia Bausewein and the whole afternoon was a great networking event, which marked the successful start of the centre.
The centre’s mission is to advance the understanding, practice and evidence base of palliative care in the Czech Republic. Our key activities are research, education and public campaigns as only through all three can real change be achieved. Since launching the centre we have prepared an original interventional study with the Department of Oncology at the General Teaching Hospital in Prague, focusing on an integrated palliative care model for their patients. We have launched a series of monthly seminars – as online webinars these are especially convenient for participants who can’t travel to Prague for the seminar. In the field of public education and campaigns we collaborate closely with the hospice civic association, Cesta domů, which provides home hospice care for patients in Prague and also generously offered educational and office space for the centre in their new facility.
The Center for Palliative Care has recently joined the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care and we look forward to collaborating with international palliative care researchers. There is a significant lack of evidence about palliative care from Eastern Europe and we aim to help fill this gap. We believe that by conducting high-quality research and providing educational opportunities for both professionals and the general public, our centre will help patients with advanced disease and their families to receive the care they need.
Links and resources
- The Center for Palliative Care.
- The AVAST Foundation.
- Click here to download presentations from past EAPC congresses. (You will need to login or register for free).
- The 14th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care, takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark, 8-10 May, 2015. Register now before Early Bird registration closes on 15 February 2015.