06/06/2019, 09.29
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Mumbai: palliative care center, "new hope" for terminally ill patients (Video)

by Nirmala Carvalho

The "Romila Palliative Care" was born on the initiative of two Catholic doctors from Bandra, who lost their daughter to cancer in 2014. In two years, the program has welcomed 600 patients with end-stage diseases. Dr. Fernandez: "Once a patient told me he was happy to have cancer, because he had never felt so loved in all his life."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In Bandra, a district of Mumbai, there is a palliative care center for terminally ill patients, which offers free medical services to over 600 very poor patients, coming from the slums of the megalopolis. It's called "Romila Palliative Care" and has been operating since February 2017. It is an initiative of Dr. Armida Fernandez and her husband, Dr. Rui Fernandez. The Catholic couple opened this place of hope and mercy in memory of Romila, their daughter who died of cancer in 2014. "We didn't want our daughter's death to have happened in vain," says her mother.

The doctor traces the history of the center: "In 2014 we lost our daughter to a tumor. At the time my husband and I, a renowned dermatologist, in the last stages of her life our daughter did not receive adequat emotional support, pain relief medications, or assistance. Although we are both doctors, and had the best medical care for our daughter,  the comfort and quality support is missing from life-limiting diseases. There is a big gap in palliative care. I decided I did not want my daughter’s death to go in vain".

Dr. Fernandez is the former dean of the Neonatal Department of Zion Hospital. In 1989 she created the first milk bank in all of Asia at the hospital where she worked; in the early 1990s she established the NGO Sneha (Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action) with the aim of reducing infant and neonatal mortality, and fighting gender-based violence. From time to time she treated patients from poor families, sick people and premature babies.

After the death of her daughter, she decided to commit herself full-time to supporting the terminally ill. "We realized -she continues - that although we had the best care, gentle support, pain relief and assistance at death were totally lacking and inadequate".

The Romila Palliative Care offers on-site and home care and uses the skills of professions experienced in the field: in all there are two nurses, two psychologists, six volunteer doctors and 20 specialists who serve for free. "Among us - continues Dr. Armida - there are nutritionists, physiotherapists, professional therapists. All received medical training in pain care at the Tata Hospital or at the Palladium India. "

At the beginning, the project welcomed only cancer patients; later it extended the offer also to terminally ill patients of other types. "We do not treat the disease - the doctor specifies - but the symptoms, so that it is easier for the patients to bear the pain. The purpose of the center is to help, offering compassionate and competent care, so as to guarantee patients a dignified and hopeful life, despite their illness ”. "Once - says the doctor in conclusion - a very poor patient from the slum in Dharavi came to me and said: 'I am happy to have cancer, because I have never felt so loved in my whole life" .


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