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Improving palliative care in Portugal

In February 2009, an announcement in the local papers invited people to attend a meeting and luncheon where Alison Blair presented her idea of introducing hospice care to the Algarve.

The need for such a service essentially came from the fact that the National Health hospital in the Algarve’s capital city of Faro has no palliative care beds.

Whenever possible, its oncology department tries to care for patients at end of life because the Algarve, with its population of close to 500,000, has only ten palliative care beds provided by Centro Hospitalar do Barlavento Algarvio.

That inaugural meeting led to the birth of Associação Madrugada and since then its achievements include: attracting more than 65 volunteers, opening charity shops in Praia da Luz and Portimão with one in Almancil due to open in a few weeks; fundraising activities along the Algarve from Aljezur to Faro; a supporter’s database of 1500 people; and the formation of a clinical team of experts with a bank of dedicated nurses standing by.

Additionally, Madrugada has assisted 10 patients and their families with ‘end of life’ palliative care in the home and helped numerous people with counselling and advice.

Madrugada recognises that the necessary changes to the provision of palliative care in Portugal will take some time to achieve.

We will therefore, continue to build an effective service independently of Government to ensure that people affected by life limiting illness have access to essential drugs and choices with regard to where and how they would like to be cared for in the final stages of their illness.

Being chosen as one of the charities to benefit from the Diamond Jubilee celebrations here in the Algarve is both a mark of recognition and respect for our work. But more importantly it allows us to raise funds from what will certainly prove to be a memorable occasion.

Clive Goodacre, PR Madrugada

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