Russian doctors lack the skills to help the terminally ill
Results of a survey conducted by the Levada Centre and data obtained from the Faith charity’s hotline have revealed that doctors do not have the necessary skills to help terminally ill people.
The results of the Levada Centre’s survey undertaken in May, together with calls made to the Faith charity’s hotline, showed that most doctors (72%) didn’t know where to send a patient in the final stages of their illness. A further 45% said they didn’t know how best to communicate with patients and their relatives and recognised this as being a problem. A fifth of respondents said they lacked the skills to treat chronic pain syndrome.
Up to 1,000 calls are received on Faith’s help hotline every month, with at least 10 from people suffering with acute pain. In such cases, the telephone operators pass on the information to Faith charity staff who then organise the necessary help in consultation with freelance palliative care experts and local health authorities.
The hotline is also called by people asking for clarification on a particular medical diagnosis, a doctor’s appointment and advice on what to do if their condition worsens unexpectedly.
According to the Levada Centre’s survey, the vast majority of doctors (96%) didn’t know the number of the terminally ill people’s hotline. Among the population in general, only 8% of respondents knew where to go for information and help if they have to look after a seriously ill loved-one.
A call was recently received by the hotline from the Director of one of Moscow’s hostels. The caller explained that there was a woman in her hostel who was apparently seriously ill and in severe pain. The hotline operator passed on the information to the Faith charity.
“We contacted the hostel Director to get her address and a clear idea of the patient’s condition. She was a 50-year old single woman from Vologda called Tamara who a few years earlier had been treated for cancer back home but did not receive radiation or chemotherapy treatment after her surgery. She later came to Moscow to work but the disease had started to spread”, said the Faith charity in a statement.
Tamara’s condition worsened so she went to a fee-paying clinic where a new tumour growth and metastasis was diagnosed. After eight days in hospital, the woman discharged herself and moved into a cheap hostel. After the message was left on the hotline, a doctor went there the same day and took Tamara to the Centre for Palliative Care. The woman was prescribed painkillers and began looking for her relatives and friends.
The hospice care charity, Faith, is always on the lookout for ways to spread the word of the hotline, e.g. in the media, on advertising platforms, polyclinics and via socially responsible companies. Leaflets with the hotline’s number have recently started to be distributed through the “Rigla” pharmacies’ network in Moscow.
“We’re very grateful to those in charge of the “Rigla” pharmacies’ network and their staff for supporting our work. We are always glad of any opportunity to post information about the hotline in the media, in external advertising, as well as in social and medical institutions. In fact, anywhere it can be seen by those who, by calling the number, can maintain a quality of life, irrespective of how much of it remains”, said Yulia Matveeva, President of the Faith charity.
The terminally ill hotline number is: 8-800-700-84-36. It is manned 24 hours a day and free to call from Russia. The hotline project is being co-financed with the help of a subsidy from the Presidential Grants Foundation until autumn this year.