When hospice home care began in Albania in 1993, it was due to the Little Company of Mary, a group of nuns in London, England, who took on the project after learning about the unmet needs of a large number of terminally ill cancer patients.
Ten years later, the sisters left the organization in care of Albanians, but maintained financial support that helped expand home care services and build the Mary Potter Center hospice. Today, the Albanian nurse in charge of the center has developed an entire interdisciplinary team: physicians, nurses, a social worker, a coordinator, and more.
“We now care for about 400 cancer patients, in advanced stages, who come from all over the south-eastern part of Albania,” says Executive Director Irena Laska. “It took a lot of training sessions and experiences abroad.”
In 2016, the Mary Potter Center was recognized as a “model for the entire Albanian health care service” by the OSCE and the Albanian government.
Services include: chemotherapy; treatment of lymphedema, stoma and malignant wounds; and bereavement care. It has a Day Care Center and a gym for patients. Furthermore, it includes advocacy, lobbying, fundraising, education of caregivers, and training of health care personnel as part of its mandate.
In fact, training health care personnel became one of the center’s three main initiatives, along with providing home care and hospice care.
“Training primary caregivers and hospital personnel about palliative care is the most important partnership in the fulfillment of our mission,” says Mrs. Laska. For 12 years, the Mary Potter Center has given accredited basic, intermediate, and advanced training sessions, ranging from one to five days in length, for both adult and pediatric palliative care nursing. Palliative care is now a mandatory subject in the curricula of all Bachelor of Nursing degrees; the center is currently working to establish a Master’s Program in Palliative Care Nursing in the capital, Tirana.
A year-long “Transformational Leadership in Palliative Care” training program has been organized with experts from Mary Potter Center in partnership with Hospice Casa Sperantei in Brasow, Romania. The center intends for the 15 students registered to become future palliative care leaders in the field of nursing.
Fundraising campaigns to bolster the center have a dual purpose: collect money, and sensitize the community and local government about the importance of palliative care. “It needs to develop, to cover all of Albania, and be assured of continuity,” says Mrs. Laska.
The center produces a twice-yearly newsletter to update the public on its challenges, achievements, and future plans. “It’s a good opportunity to share what we are doing every day.” It is part of a national group striving to spread the development of palliative care across the country.
Recruiting and training volunteers is a major challenge, currently being met by a committed coordinator.
The Mary Potter Center recently joined IAHPC, reporting that “membership has had a positive impact on the entire staff and the services we offer, by helping us to increase our services and offer them with high-quality standards.”
To learn more about Mary Potter Center in Albania, visit its listing in the IAHPC Directory.