Hong Kong still offers limited options for end-of-life comfort and compassionate care

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 11:19pm

It is with greatest sympathy that we heard of Stewart Aldcroft’s wife’s recent passing, and understand his perspective on the matter of inadequacies in the provision of hospice and palliative care (“Not enough facilities for people to die with dignity in Hong Kong”, October 17).

This is in part due to a shortage of suitable facilities, but also a limited recognition by health care professionals and patients alike that the final journey is one where we should strive to provide comfort first – especially when treatment options are otherwise life-limited in choice or effectiveness.

Over 94 per cent of deaths now occur in Hong Kong’s public and private hospitals. This is a complete reversal of the situation just a generation ago, when most people would depart with the support of a home or community environment.

In fact, the Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care has operated as a non-profit organisation for over 30 years, with the express purpose of providing and advocating patient support and care to compensate this deficit in our health care system.

Today, the Hospital Authority operates some 360 palliative beds in different settings. Demand still far outweighs supply, though, and many of Hong Kong’s dying continue to miss substantively the opportunity to achieve quality comfort and compassionate care at the end of life.

Supported by both the government in granting a piece of land and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust for funding the cost of construction and a three-year “Jockey Club Inpatient Hospice Care Subsidy Programme”, the brand new Jockey Club Home for Hospice (JCHH) strives to provide family-centric care for the dying and their families, in an environment that provides tranquillity, comfort, privacy and the best levels of multidisciplinary clinical care. JCHH also has its own team of home care nurses, very similar to the “Macmillan nurses” in the UK, in support of patients who opt to spend their last days in comfort, or even to pass away at home.

We hope to use this as a working study and example of how we might lead the conversation on death and dying in our city.

We also recognise that we will only truly start to address this issue at its root when we can dedicate more resources and achieve the scale necessary for such “essential services” across every district of Hong Kong.

Raymond S.K. Wong, chairman, Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care; Professor Thomas Wong, chairman, Jockey Club Home for Hospice