Indian and Australian palliative care workers reach out in COVID-19

New palliative care training for Sister Doctors in India is supporting patients and families during the pandemic and broadening understanding of care across the Indian Ocean.

Many of us watched in horror and with great sadness as COVID-19 swept India earlier this year.

While our borders and our public health measures meant we had little COVID-19 infection in our community at that time, in India we saw nightly footage of people struggling to breathe, of others treated on the street and of families desperately seeking help for the person they loved.

Many of us have friends, colleagues and family in India, and felt helpless as we witnessed the suffering. However, as the peak of the wave passed, an opportunity, albeit small, to do something more tangible was realised.

For the last few years, Palliative Care physicians and academics at Melbourne University and St Vincent’s Hospital’s Centre for Palliative Care have developed relations with Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI).

Beginning in 2018 with a visit to the CHAI headquarters in Hyderabad to develop relationships, conduct face-to-face teaching and begin discussions about a palliative care strategy, this relationship builds upon much older, deeper links.

Indeed, these links were originally forged in the first part of last century through the work of Sister Doctor Mary Glowrey who grew up in country Victoria, trained as a doctor at the University of Melbourne and, following her deep commitment to the health of underprivileged women and children, became a medical missionary in India.

Mary’s approach to public health has many contemporary resonances today as she sought to develop sustainable systems for health care delivery to the poor.

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