“HCA became not just work, but also an addiction. As I had said it at that time, ‘Morphine is not addictive, but HCA work is.’,” quips Ms Chua Lee Kiang, HCA’s very first staff nurse, who served from its inception in 1989, to 2001.
Ms Chua’s words echo the passion of the volunteer nurses, doctors and individuals from all walks of life, who banded together to care for terminally ill patients, at a time when the hospice movement in Singapore was just beginning to gain traction.
“In the beginning, there were moments of frustration but the excitement felt by all involved was so strong that it could not put out the good vibes,” she recalls.
In the first year of HCA’s existence – which was then known as Hospice Care Group – the team of volunteers, which included 60 nurses, visited 42 patients at their homes.
Laying the Foundation
“Education was a big part of HCA – palliative care courses were organised for nurses, doctors and lay volunteers,” Ms Chua says. The rapid upskilling process, coupled with hands-on experience gained from caring for patients, would eventually become a precious legacy of knowledge for the generations of HCA’s successors after.
Today, while the model of care has evolved and grown significantly, encompassing both day hospice and paediatric palliative care programmes, as well as a comprehensive suite of complementary services, one thing remains unchanged – all of HCA’s services are still provided at no charge to patients and families.
The passion and pioneering spirit of Ms Chua and her fellow nurses paved the way forward for our nurses of today. At present, HCA has 45 nurses, who conduct the bulk of over 40,000 home visits each year. Some of these nurses, like HCA Nurse Managers Lim Lay Choo and Liew Tse Pei, and Senior Palliative Care Nurse Xu Fen, have been with HCA for more than 10 years, serving and touching the lives of countless patients and their families.
Read Tse Pei’s story: https://www.hca.org.sg/hca-connect/clinching-the-nurses-merit-award/
Read Lay Choo’s story: https://www.hca.org.sg/hca-connect/a-20-year-marathon/
Read Xu Fen’s story: https://www.hca.org.sg/hca-connect/a-soft-spot-for-young-families/
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