The First Palliative Care Center in Southern China Was Put Into Use In Shenzhen’s Children’s Hospital

Translated By Dora Gao

Original author: YangCheng News Reporter Mingda Zheng June 09 2022

Walking into the hematology and oncology ward of Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, one can see two palliative care beds in the room at the end of the hallway. Most of the people who live here are children with end-stage malignant tumors. In the past few years, about seven or eight families in Shenzhen each year will spend time in this special ward.

Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, as a national testing center for palliative care, officially opened the children’s palliative care section in the Department of Intensive Care Medicine (PICU) on the 7th. This is the first children’s hospital in South China with a section providing palliative care services for children.

In this Children’s Palliative Care ward, sofas, bookshelves, children’s toys, green smoothing plants, and other daily commodities are neatly arranged, and colorful pictures are hung on the walls. The blankets and sheets placed in the center of the room have cute patterns printed on them, unlike the pure white bedding in the other hospital rooms. The coziness in this family-style suite makes it easier for families to accompany their children through their final days.

This palliative care ward is called “Star Terminal”. The reporter learned that it was donated by CIMC Group to Shenzhen Children’s Hospital through Shenzhen Charity Association. It is the first children’s hospital in South China to provide palliative care for children. The meaning of the name ‘star terminal’ is to make the ward not a final stop for a child’s life but rather a transit station. Every child who stays will become a star in the sky, accompanying their family forever in the galaxies and providing them with light from the faint glow of the stars. Wu Wenmei, director of the Social Work Department of Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, said that they hoped to pass on a little bit of hope to the families in this way.

“In the past, when we have encountered terminally ill children, we couldn’t let the parents enter the PICU to accompany the children for a long time. The only way was to ask the parents to visit the child for the last time after the child passes. They could change the child’s clothes, and then they would have to leave. This was extremely cruel.” Yang Weiguo, director of the PICU, told reporters that after the establishment of the palliative care ward, families who are willing to receive palliative care can stay in the palliative care ward, and have family members to accompany their children in the final stage of the child, just like being at home, pain and other symptoms are relieved. “It’s a great comfort to the family that the child can leave quietly and with dignity.”

“We would communicate with the child’s parents often and give them expectations ahead of time so they can begin to slowly accept the fact that their child is going to pass away eventually. Separating grief from their daily routines helps the parents ease the pain of losing a child,” says Yang Yanlan, head nurse of the Department of Hematology and Oncology at Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, who has been engaged in palliative care services for more than a decade. She told reporters that palliative care is no longer about treating diseases but treating the “heart”—treating every child, every parent, and every family heartfully to help them overcome their grief.

It is reported that the Shenzhen Children’s Hospital palliative care multidisciplinary collaboration team includes ten licensed physicians, fifteen registered nurses, three clinical pharmacists, four nutritionists, and nine medical social workers. In the Department of Hematology and Oncology and PICU, where palliative care needs are high, a professional social worker has been set up to fully participate in the daily routine and case discussions of the medical and nursing teams, assist in doctor-patient communication, conduct life education, and assist in organizing family meetings They also organize and train volunteers, etc., to provide promise and ensure the palliative process runs smoothly and effectively.

Ma Xiaopeng, Director of Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, has been working for 25 years since the establishment of the hospital. Whenever he encounters incurable cases of critically ill children with illnesses such as tumors and leukemia, he always feels that more hospice care must be given to these children.

When speaking of the original intention of starting palliative care by building a warm cabin in the PICU as a tranquil ward, Ma Xiaopeng was deeply touched because patients don’t always win the battle of survival against diseases. The goal is that in the course of treatment, they will try to provide the best medical treatment, and when there is nothing the doctors can do, then they should provide a peaceful environment for the child so that the family can accompany them more at the last moment, leaving more memories and fewer regrets. “We mainly provide palliative care focused on terminally ill patients and their families, and provide physical, psychological, spiritual and other care and humanistic care services for terminally ill patients by controlling pain and discomfort before dying.” Ma Xiao Peng said.

In 2021, Shenzhen Children’s Hospital will innovatively enforce the “attending physician responsibility system”, and implement the “one bed for the whole hospital” policy based on the three-level refined evaluation model based on the hospital, department, and committee to solve the problem of the shortage of palliative care beds for children, offering the possibility of a solution.

Liang Zhen, vice director of Shenzhen People’s Hospital, said: “Shenzhen palliative care has been widely carried out in terminally ill adults and end-stage cancer patients, and children’s palliative care is still in the preliminary exploration stage in the city. Therefore, including children’s palliative care in the palliative care system is crucial.”