Featured article

2015; Volume 16, No 1, January

Featured article

Palliative care in Barbados – a life-changing experience

Sue Krauter, MD, FAAHPM, Hospice Physician, Hope Hospice, Fort Myers, Florida, United States.

Facilitators of the 2014 conference and workshop in Barbados: (Left to right) Ms Deiann Sobers; President, Dr Bayo, and Dr Sue Krauter.

In November 2013, Liliana De Lima, Executive Director of IAHPC, invited me to participate in the Barbados Association of Palliative Care (BAPC) conference. My role was to bring greetings from IAHPC, as I am a lifetime member, and to be a panelist for one of the sessions. I am so glad that I said yes. When I arrived in Barbados on 2 December I was met by an incredible lady – Ms. Deiann Sobers, President of BAPC. She has a BA in Sociology and a graduate diploma in Community Politics and the Law from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. After working 21 years in Canada she returned to her native Barbados and worked as a social worker. Bereavement and death education became a major area of interest for Ms. Sobers and while attending McGill’s biennial palliative care conference in 2008 she became acquainted with Dr. Anna Towers. This connection led to the founding of the BAPC in 2011.

I was impressed by Ms. Sobers’ approach to bringing palliative care to Barbados. She started by involving community members. The conference I participated in was titled: ‘Children in grief: The breadwinner has died’. The main speaker was Kenneth Doka, Professor of Gerontology at the Graduate School of The College of New Rochelle and Senior Consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America, an internationally known expert in death education and bereavement. Another speaker was Dr. Ibikunle Adebayo Obunbiyi (Dr.Bayo); trained in palliative care in the UK he is very involved in developing palliative care services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Participants included physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, as well as funeral home directors, a representative of the police commissioner, social services professionals, financial and insurance people and clergy. The varied audience led to some very interesting questions and comments.

I left Barbados on 6 December wishing I could return... In May 2014, Dr. Bayo invited me to present at the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners’ annual continuing medical education conference on ‘Modern approaches to end-of-life care’, which was well received. Earlier, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Ms. Sobers had arranged for me to speak on ‘The conversation: Advance directives’ to members of the community and hospital staff including Dr. Anthony Harris, Director of Medical Services. This was a timely presentation as Dr. Harris shared that they were in the process of writing policies and procedures about advance directives. The audience had many excellent questions and comments; many mentioned that people in their culture were reluctant to talk about death and dying but audience members could see the benefit in such discussions.

Palliative care in Barbados is off to a good start under the leadership of Ms. Sobers and the Barbados Association of Palliative Care, and Dr. Bayo. It was a privilege to participate in their educational programs and I gained some valuable insights into how people of the Caribbean region deal with end of life issues. I encourage everyone from established palliative care and hospice programs who has the opportunity to work with a newer palliative care/hospice program to take advantage of the chance to visit and be a mentor. It can be a life-changing experience.

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