Beacon Nurses have developed an extremely professional and highly valued service

July 17, 2011 | By | Filed Under Letters 

Dear Editor,
Although I am a very small foreign cog in this important wheel, I want to thank you personally for your support for the Palliative Care (p/c) initiatives that are developing here in Guyana. It was extremely valuable that you did a lengthy promotional editorial, as well as the items on TV news. To have your reporter do a further article on Sunday was wonderful. I am speaking as a very interested foreign nurse, with 20 plus years of p/c experience in the UK, who has spent many months in Guyana since Sept 2010, teaching nurses on an “Introduction to Palliative Care” course. The developments by Dr Amata and Dr Mitchell, as Palliative Care and Pain Specialists, are very exciting and progressive, and will greatly improve provision of p/c in Guyana. Your efforts to publicise their seminar on Sunday are invaluable.
I feel bound to make representations to you though, on behalf of the Beacon Foundation p/c nursing service, based here in Georgetown. I was fortunately introduced to them by the Association of Guyanese Nurses and Allied Professionals (AGNAP), a British charity which supports and raises funds in the UK for health services here in Guyana. They help fund such services and projects as the Beacon Nurses, Georgetown Public Hospital, Mercy Hospital, The Periwinkle Cancer Support Club, Sickle Cell services and The Guyana Nurses Association.
I have been in close contact with the Beacon Nurses since my arrival last September, being keen to cooperate fully with your local p/c service. I have been privileged to spend much time with them, both in their office, sharing p/c expertise, and on their visits to patients and their families in different areas. In this time, I have learned a great deal about this wonderful service, and how it is valued by patients and families. The three nurses have been well trained abroad in this specialist nursing skill, partly at St Christopher’s Hospice in London, where Dame Cicily Saunders, known worldwide as the Mother of the Hospice Movement, was consultant. Cecilia Bennie currently heads the team, with their Medical Director Dr Jabour, and was one of the three original nurses who set up this service 21 years ago. They with their then Medical Director Dr Mangal, blazed the p/c trail in the absence of any other recognised p/c expertise here. The Beacon Nurses have developed an extremely professional and highly valued service, and their families have nothing but praise and deep admiration for them. They have not always had access to adequate pain killing medicine, but despite this, their patient’s lives have been hugely improved by the compassion, care and expertise which characterises p/c.
The reasons for this sadly lengthy epistle are the two very unfortunate words in your reporter’s p/c article last Sunday 10th July. She stated that “unfortunately”… the Beacon nursing service is… “unpopular”. The absolute reverse of this was stated at the interview with Dr Amata, Dr Mitchell and myself. I had made strong reference to their skill, professionalism and value to their patients, both at the interview on Sunday, and when you interviewed us at Georgetown Hospital. “Unfortunately” and “unpopular” are clearly a misrepresentation of the truth, and fortunately all who have had dealings with this service will understand that a serious error has been made. Sadly though, those who may need their services in the future may now be fearful.
I understand that Dr Mitchell contacted your reporter regarding this matter, following which the reporter spoke to Nurse Bennie. The reporter explained that she had concluded that the service was unpopular because she had spoken to nurses at Georgetown Hospital who knew nothing about the Beacon nurses, or palliative care.
It is difficult to understand the correlation between those two issues, but besides that, there have been very good reasons why the service is not well known outside its users. There are just three nurses for a population of 750,000 who could not afford to further publicise their work, being fully occupied with referrals. Apparently the reporter felt that no printed explanation of the mistake was appropriate, but offered an interview instead. I’m sure this would be acceptable at some time, as many have been given to the press before by Nurse Bennie, but would not correct the serious error of the Sunday article.
In the interests of p/c which you have been supporting so well, and those potential patients and families of the Beacon nurses, it would be a generosity to put straight the record and publicly clarify this issue.
With kind regards from Ann Read

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