Following a successful visit to Royal Trinity Hospice in November, four members of Trinity staff were invited by Mgr Matija Matičić PhD to visit Rijeka City Hospice, the only hospice in Croatia, which was established seven years ago. The team was invited as keynote speakers at the hospice's "Marija K. Kozulić" anniversary meeting. 

To summarise their visit, here are some thoughts from Cathy, Hannah and Caroline, who were among the lucky few invited to visit. Our thanks go to Matija Matičić and the team at Rijeka City Hospice for their generous invitation and hospitality.

Cathy Maylin – Head of Wandsworth Care Coordination Service

"I wasn’t sure what to expect, but spending time with the nurses made me realise that nursing and caring reaches far beyond physical borders. The similarities I saw far outweigh any differences. Like here, in Rijeka each patient is treated as an individual and has, where possible, their wishes met despite there not being much time to get to know each other. Very few patients are admitted for anything other than end of life care and often die within two weeks of admission. The nursing teams all talked of the privilege they feel in caring for their patients and families and all enjoyed their work. Notwithstanding the inevitable sadness, the hospice was a very happy place."

Hannah Leech – Senior Physiotherapist

"Our trip to visit Hospice Marija K. Kozulić was a culturally and socially enlightening experience for me, on both a professional and personal level. Unlike the UK, which has 223 adult hospices, Croatia has only one 14 bedded facility, which receives around 70 referrals a day.

The hospice itself, founded on the same values as Trinity, also presented many differences, including the support of the Catholic church. We were generously hosted and spent several days visiting the hospice, as well as important theological landmarks throughout the city of Rijeka.

We then presented as guest speakers for a conference marking both the 7th anniversary of the Hospice Marija K. Kozulic and the naming of Rijeka as the European Capital of Culture 2020. We talked about the principles of palliative care in the UK and our practice at Trinity, receiving great interest from the audience. During the event, we had the opportunity to network with other health professionals and public figures, including the Mayor of Rijeka.

Caroline Quilty – Head of Quality 

"We heard about community palliative care services in the region which have been established for around 10 years and consist of 5 teams based in community health centres across the region. Like us, they accept referrals from other health professionals as well as direct from patients or family members. Palliative medicine is not a medical speciality in Croatia like it is the UK and the service is run by a medical consultant with an interest in palliative and end of life care.

Rijeka City Hospice has 14 beds and is currently the only hospice in the whole of Croatia so patients come from all over the country. The ethos of the hospice, and of the separate community service, is similar to ours, with holistic care at the heart of what they do.

The main difference between Trinity and Rijeka City Hospice is that patients are admitted predominantly for end of life care; there is huge demand for beds. This means that they don’t see patients for support around the management symptoms earlier on in their illness and they were interested in hearing about our model. Medical cover is provided differently too, with oncologists from the local hospital visiting for around 2 hours each morning to see the patients. Here at Trinity we have our own consultants and junior doctors on site and providing cover 24/7.

In Croatia, palliative care is mainly government funded – they were very surprised at the amount of money that we need to raise through fundraising.

We spoke to several people who are working in their local districts to develop inpatient hospice care and I hope that we will be able to stay in touch to share knowledge and expertise.

Special thanks to the director of Rijeka Hospice, Sr. Daniele Orbanic and Mgr Matija Matičić PhD for flying us out to Croatia and their generous hospitality."