The tertiary oncology services in Saudi Arabia began at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh (KFSHRCR) since the inauguration of the hospital in 1975. The oncology service at KFSHRCR had since been the leading cancer control center in the country and the region. The name of the service has changed over the years to end up with its current name, Oncology Centre. The Palliative Care services started in the early 1990s as a home care service and then developed into a hospital-wide consultation service and eventually the Palliative Care Medicine section of Oncology was established in 1996.
The Oncology Centre encompasses several sections, namely hemato-oncology, medical oncology, palliative care medicine, radiation oncology and surgical oncology. It also includes a dedicated research unit. The Oncology Centre works in close collaboration with a Home Health Care service. The Cancer Centre provides tertiary care to patients with all types of solid and liquid malignancies. The various types of systemic cancer therapies are available for our patients. Our facility is equipped with advanced radiation therapy modalities.
The palliative care team assumes the primary responsibility of caring for patients admitted to an 8-bedded palliative care inpatient unit. The team also provides consultation on patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer. There is an outpatient component of the palliative care service and the team also works in collaboration with the home health care service to care for patients at home. The palliative care service provides an around the clock coverage for inpatient units and the emergency department.
The palliative care team provides care primarily to cancer patients. However, patients with other life threatening conditions such as end stage organ failure and progressive life threatening neurological conditions are also occasionally referred to the palliative care team. The disciplines involved in the collaborative delivery of palliative care to our patients include medicine, nursing, social work, nutrition, physical therapy, occupational therapy, clinical pharmacy, respiratory therapy, wound care, case management, and others.
Palliative and supportive care
The palliative care team receives more than 600 new inpatient consultations per year. In the palliative care outpatient clinic, around 1000 patients are seen annually. Referrals are being accepted at any stage of cancer. However, for complete transfer of care of a patient to the palliative care service, the patient must have a far advanced disease with all possible anti-cancer therapies exhausted and no further disease-modifying options left. Such patients are primarily cared for by the palliative care team. Such patients could be managed at home with or without home health care support and if their conditions require admission to the hospital, they will be admitted to the inpatient palliative care unit. All essential palliative care medications are available in our institution including a good list of opioids in various formulations. The service is planning to expand and in preparation for that, recruitment of more professionals is currently ongoing.