Galilee Palliative Care Centre, on the outskirts of Athens, provides palliative medical and nursing care, as well as psychological, social, and spiritual support to patients and their families, the first service to offer such a comprehensive range of support in Greece. Aliki J Tserkezoglou MD, PhD, Vice-President, tells us more…
An enlightened monk, ex NASA physicist, becomes a Bishop in 2004 and a small group of healthcare professionals, with a background in oncology, share his vision to help chronically ill cancer patients at the end of their lives. And so “Galilee’s” story begins.
Since there is no model locally, expertise has to be imported from abroad. Trainers from HOSPICE Casa Sperantei in Brasov, Romania, undertake the theoretical and clinical training of the first team. The diocese provides the premises as well as financial and legal support. A six-member interdisciplinary team (IDT) is licensed to provide home care, since there is no functional legislative framework specific to palliative care (PC) in Greece – and on 1 March 2010 the journey begins.
Starting from scratch, with no national standards, means that procedures need to be established, guidelines translated and modified, and patients, healthcare professionals and the public need to be informed about this unknown service. Hence the need to develop educational programmes, as well as raising the necessary funds, since services are provided free of charge and there is no government reimbursement.
Networking began early and a memorandum of collaboration was signed with the Athens Cancer hospital in 2010 and later, in 2016, with the Department of Neurology of Athens University, promoting referral of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Volunteers enthusiastically embraced the cause and soon a volunteer training programme was established, and activities launched. The most prominent activity was the setting up and operation of a day centre in November 2011, followed in 2015 by a bereavement support service under the supervision of the IDT.
In 2013, a National Strategic Reference Framework Program was granted, allowing “Galilee” to recruit and train 10 more IDT members who, besides providing care, developed an online electronic patient record, an out-of-hours service and quality accreditation procedures (ISO 9001/2009).
“Galilee’s” nine-bed hospice was inaugurated in January 2018, being licensed as a specialised unit of the adjacent long-term facility for older people, thus overcoming the existing legislative gap.
Besides service provision, “Galilee” has been involved in theoretical (12 seminars for 300 participants) and hands-on training of more than 100 health and social care professionals, as well as in clinical research undertaking the translation and validation of the Greek IPOS tool (Integrated Palliative care Outcome Scale).
Advocacy and raising public awareness have been pursued through press releases, media interviews, on-site gatherings (open house), artistic events, as well as through the development of “Galilee’s” website and social media profile, notwithstanding collaboration with officials in the Ministry of Health and participating in the National Committee for the Strategic Development of Palliative Care in Greece.
Eleven years later, “Galilee” is still the only comprehensive palliative care service for adults in Greece, as the recent feasibility study of the above National Committee testifies, still operating without government support and under a questionable legislative status. Regardless of Greece’s recession in the past 10 years, “Galilee” has managed to raise its staff to 41 and increase its budget five times, in order to serve around 350 patients and their families a year.
- Galilee Palliative Care Centre website (in Greek and English).
- Follow us on Facebook.
- Contact Dr Aliki J Tserkezoglou by email.
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