Dying with Dignity - HHC to Expand Palliative Care
The end of life is difficult to accept for patients and families. It’s not any easier for health care professionals who are trained to save lives and often conditioned to respond to every death, even one that is imminent, as a failure that should be avoided by any available means.
Recognizing the need to provide specialized care to patients who face life-threatening or terminal disease, HHC announced a new corporate-wide clinical initiative to expand palliative care programs to more New Yorkers.
“While exhausting all life-prolonging efforts may meet some patients’ wishes, it sometimes magnifies, rather than mitigates, the suffering and anguish of patients and their families,” HHC President Alan D. Aviles said. “When death is foreseeable and near, palliative care offers the alternative of dignified, comfort care in the presence of family and in the absence of futile and often invasive treatment and technology.”
With a $217,000 start-up grant from the HHC Foundation, the public hospital system will expand successful palliative care programs at Coney Island (see story, “Amid Mourning, Families Are Grateful”) and Bellevue and create new ones in the other nine acute care facilities. Expert and comprehensive palliative care that includes forthright discussions about prognosis, pain control, psychological support and advanced care planning will be available to all patients and families facing end of life trauma. These efforts will further enhance HHC’s broad patient safety campaign to prevent unnecessary harm.
“We are committed to providing an environment of dignity and comfort, and practicing a more holistic approach to address a dying patient’s medical, psychological and even existential or spiritual needs,” Aviles said.
More than 100 HHC administrative and medical leaders participated in a conference on December 6 to begin the corporation’s palliative care initiative. Experts noted how palliative care programs can have a dramatic positive impact on patients, family and staff. They also shared data to show that palliative care programs generally reduce ICU and other health care costs.
“This is the right and moral thing to do for our patients facing the end of life,” added Aviles.