Not alone

Dr Karen Soh: “Make Every Moment Matter”

The aesthetic doctor on palliative care and why, in an extraordinary year such as this, Dover Park Hospice’s signature charity fundraiser must still go on — virtually.

Dr Karen Soh: “Make Every Moment Matter”
As Singapore's first purpose-built hospice, Dover Park was designed to provide a serene environment close to natureDover Park Hospice

For the first time in 27 years, Dover Park Hospice’s signature gala fundraiser is going online, with its Sunflower Virtual Charity Dinner set to take place this Friday. The goal? To raise $800,000 in a year Covid-19 has inevitably reshaped care for terminally ill patients and hampered fundraising efforts.

Singapore’s first purpose-built hospice, Dover Park — founded in 1992 — has brought care and comfort to more than 12,000 patients nearing the end of life’s journey and to their families. Through philanthropic donations and matching grants from the government, the hospice subsidises the costs for 90 percent of its patients.

We speak with Dr Karen Soh, Medical Director of Privé Clinic and Co-Chairman of the Dover Park Hospice Fundraising Committee.

Dr Karen Soh, Co-Chairman of the Dover Park Hospice Fundraising CommitteeDover Park Hospice

You specialise in aesthetic medicine. Why did you choose to champion palliative care?

It is quite a personal decision. I always admire my colleagues in palliative care — it takes a special heart and patience to walk with the patients on this last mile. It is not easy, and we need all the help that we can get. I believe that no matter how or what a person has done, a dignified and compassionate approach to end-of-life care is a human right, and Dover Park Hospice serves this purpose regardless of race, language, religion and background.

How did serving at Dover Park Hospice come about?

I was introduced to Dover Park Hospice by Dr June Goh (Immediate Past President, SCWO) and Joy Tan (Partner, WongPartnership), two of my best friends and women whom I admire greatly. Both also serve on the Dover Park Hospice Fundraising Committee.

Tell us about Dover Park’s mission and vision.

We provide comfort, relief of symptoms, and palliative care to patients with advanced disease, regardless of their age, race or religion, and support grieving families. Our vision is to be the Centre of Excellence for palliative care services, education and research.

Besides in-patient care, home care and day care, Dover Park Hospice believes in building capabilities of the palliative care sector through evidence-based research and providing palliative care courses and workshops for healthcare and allied health professionals.

In 2017, we collaborated with the Nanyang Technological University Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine and National Healthcare Group in setting up The Palliative Care Centre for Excellence in Research and Education (PalC) to advance research and education in palliative care.

A non-profit organisation, Dover Park Hospice serves patients of every age, race, religion, and income level.Dover Park Hospice

It must be draining on the team to know that these are terminally ill patients. What drives the entire staff?

Most people perceive the hospice as a depressing place to visit or work, as most of the patients usually pass on within weeks or months, and at times, days after they are admitted. Having said this, it is this notion that drives the staff at Dover Park Hospice, to make every moment matter for our patients and lasting memories for them and their families.  

Palliative care is more than catering to the medical needs of the patients, such as relieving pain and symptoms. It’s also about journeying with the patients, providing psycho-social, emotional and spiritual care and support. Given the prognosis of the patients and the limited time they have, our multidisciplinary team comprising medical social workers, art and music therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and pastoral counsellors work with the doctors and nurses to help the patients fulfil any last wishes they may have.

The Virtual Sunflower Charity Dinner is coming up. How important are fundraisers such as this to Dover Park’s work?

We rely on philanthropic donations from individuals and corporate for our programmes and services. Through our major fundraising efforts, such as the upcoming Dover Park Hospice Virtual Sunflower Charity Dinner on 18 September, the funds raised go towards subsidising the costs of providing hospice care to our patients, especially low-income families at different trajectories of their illnesses. It will also help to sustain the programmes and services and enable us to enhance our care to serve more people, such as those with advanced dementia or end-stage organ failure.

Dover Park Hospice is located at Jalan Tan Tock SengDover Park Hospice

One message about palliative care that you would like to drive home.

Often, palliative care is introduced late for someone with life-limiting illness or during the last stage of their life. However, conversations on palliative care can start early in the course of an illness to provide a support system spanning medical, psychosocial, emotional and spiritual care for both the patients and their families. This will help them enhance their quality of life and live their life as meaningfully as possible.

What have you gained from your experiences with the hospice?

I have learnt so much from the dedication of the team and Council at Dover Park Hospice. Everyone is trying their best to provide not just basic care for the patients and their loved ones, but are ceaseless in going the extra mile when needed. The fundraising staff work night and day to make things happen. I’ve also been personally touched by interacting with the patients at Dover Park Hospice. I remember on one occasion when I visited with my staff from Prive Clinic, all of us were moved to tears by the stories and fortitude of the patients and their families.

To find out more about the Dover Park Hospice Virtual Sunflower Charity Dinner email galaball@doverpark.org.sg; To donate, visit doverpark.org.sg/donate

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