What We do

The multidisciplinary health care team at Balsam, the Lebanese Center for Palliative Care, provides palliative care services at home to help patients and their family members cope with illness. The Balsam team develops and plans its care according to the wishes of the patient in collaboration with their family and their primary care physician. We also provide emotional, psychological, and social support to patients and their families during the course of illness, help them make sense of treatment options, and guide them throughout the process. We assist and empower caregivers by teaching them how to provide proper care to their loved ones and support them during their illness.

Our team provides expert and compassionate medical care to relieve patients of the symptoms that bother them. For example, we manage pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and shortness of breath. We treat pressure ulcers and other wounds and work with patients and families to prevent them. We manage medical complications, such as infections, at home when possible to minimize the need for hospitalization. We provide medical equipment when needed and instruct caregivers on their proper use. Although we do not routinely provide medications, we can assist families in obtaining medications when necessary. Our goal is to help patients achieve the best possible quality of life through compassionate and expert care.

OUR SERVICES ARE:

  • provided free of charge
  • available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • provided in the patient’s preferred setting, at home or in the hospital
  • provided to all patients regardless of diagnosis, gender, age, nationality, disability,
  • religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or ability to pay

 

For Patients

If you are or a loved one is living with a serious illness, Balsam is here to help so you do not have to face these challenges alone. Not knowing what the future holds can be scary. We are here to support you, give you back control, and help you make decisions about the care that is right for you. The health care team at Balsam, the Lebanese Center for Palliative Care, provides palliative care services to help people cope with their illness and remain as active and independent as possible despite their illness. Our support includes providing medical equipment and assisting you with practical issues such as managing your family or work responsibilities. Although we do not routinely provide medications, we can assist in obtaining medications when necessary. We provide expert and compassionate medical care to relieve all symptoms by managing pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, depression, shortness of breath, and other causes of discomfort. We treat pressure ulcers and other wounds and, whenever possible, treat medical complications, such as infections, at home to minimize the need for hospitalization. In short, we aim to relieve suffering, improve functionality, restore dignity, and provide comfort and support to people living with a life-threatening illness and their families.

If you would like to know more or you think you can benefit from our services, there are three ways to contact us:

  1. Call us at: tel/fax: 009611-748574 or 009611-743124
  2. Email us at: info@balsam-lb.org
  3. Complete the Online Referral Form.

Please leave your contact information so that a Balsam team member can communicate with you. Please allow up to 48 hours for a response.

OUR SERVICES ARE:

  • provided free of charge
  • available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • provided in the patient’s preferred setting, at home or in the hospital
  • provided to all patients regardless of diagnosis, gender, age, nationality, disability,
  • religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or ability to pay

 

For Physicians

Palliative Care is a medical approach that aims to improve the quality of life of patients with life-threatening illness and support their families. In palliative medicine the focus is on the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, be they physical, psychosocial, or spiritual. Palliative care does not seek to postpone or hasten the dying process but regards dying as a natural fact of life that must be managed with a focus on the comfort of those who are dying and their families. An important component of palliative care is home-based care which for most patients is the most comfortable, humane, and cost-effective care available as it frees hospital beds for more acutely ill patients.

Palliative care should not be reserved for patients with terminal illness who are at the end of life. It can and should be provided to patients receiving active curative therapies when their medical condition or its treatment causes significant suffering. Patients who receive palliative care along with their curative treatment have a better quality of life and as a result they have a better ability to tolerate their treatments.


 

Advocacy

Balsam works to promote palliative care both at the community as well as at the policy level. We aim to increase awareness about the philosophy and practice of palliative care as an alternative approach to illness, death, and dying. Advocating for a change in the current national legislation is crucial. On the one hand, there are many laws that act as barriers to the provision of palliative care in Lebanon, such as laws restricting the use of essential pain medications. On the other hand, there is an absence of laws that guarantee patients’ rights to choose their preferred medical care. To this effect, Balsam played a critical role in the establishment of the National Committee for Pain Relief and Palliative Care under the Ministry of Public Health and several members of Balsam continue to serve on the Committee. Balsam has also played an important role in getting palliative medicine recognized as a specialty in Lebanon. Balsam members are also active participants in conferences, leading training courses and workshops, and other activities that aim to promote palliative care in the community and among healthcare providers.

May 2011: Balsam played a critical role in the establishment of the National Committee for Pain Control and Palliative Care (NCPCPC) that was established under the Ministry of Public Health by Dr. Walid Ammar, Director General of the Ministry of Public Health. Several members of Balsam serve on the committee which has been working on a national strategy for the development of palliative care in Lebanon.

September 2012: Balsam’s first fundraising gala event: Friends of Balsam organized a fundraiser at Skybar to support Balsam’s work. The event included a dinner, a live band, a fashion show, tombola, and a silent auction.  

June 2013:  Balsam played a critical role in moving palliative care forward by mobilizing palliative care physicians of Lebanese origin to petition the Ministry of Public Health to have palliative medicine recognized as a medical specialty. The Lebanese Ministry of Public Health issued decree number 1/1048 recognizing Palliative Medicine as a specialty on June 23, 2013. This decree was issued under HE Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, with the support of Dr. Walid Ammar, Director General of the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health.

August 2013: Dr. Osman began working towards building a palliative care program at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC). She set up and trained the members of a multidisciplinary palliative care consultation service that included nursing, psychiatry, social work, a clinical pharmacist, as well as interns in clinical psychology. She also served on several committees and task forces and played an important role in developing policies that have made the hospital environment more responsive to the needs of patients with serious illness.

September 2015: Night Walk: “With you til the end” on the Corniche. The night walk aimed to break the taboo surrounding discussions about death and to raise awareness about the availability of palliative care services in Lebanon. It was attended by over 70 people who walked from Bain Militaire to Ein El Mreisse where they lit candles in the memory of their loved ones and wrote their end-of-life wishes on a “Before I Die” mounted canvas.

October 2015: Balsam Short 7-minute film.
This powerful short film highlights the experiences of Balsam patients and families. Its aimed to clarify the concept of palliative care and to increase awareness about Balsam. The film was produced by the talented SISU Beirut team. We are thankful to our patients and families for their willingness to share their experiences so openly.

October 2015: La Magnanerie Fundraising Gala Dinner celebrated Balsam’s achievements and raised $200,000 to support Balsam’s work. At the end of the evening, Mr. Claude Rufin presented the Balsam Board of Directors with a generous donation on behalf of the Board of Directors of Emirates Lebanon Bank S.A.L. See Video

August 2016: Lebanon Lantern Festival: This event was organized by Deeds to support the work of several NGOs. Participants met at Ramlet al Baida and released hundreds of Chinese paper lanterns into the evening sky.

November 2016: Balsam partnered with Beyond Learning to organize a family day out to Tannourine and Balou’ Balaa. The aim of the activity was to increase awareness about palliative care, reduce the stigma surrounding serious illness and death, and create opportunities for families to discover Lebanon. Beyond Learning is an organization that aspires to create positive change in the community by organizing recreational and educational opportunities for youth. Beyond Learning and Balsam will be joining forces to organize future activities that meet the common goals of both organizations.

May 2017: The Lebanese Conservatory played at the French Embassy’s Residence des Pins for a Balsam BIG BAND JAZZ fundraiser. See Video. 

For more on Advocacy see Annual Reports.


 

Capacity Building

Balsam believes in making palliative care available to all people in Lebanon and the region. To that end, we aim to create training opportunities in palliative care for health care professionals so that they may become providers of palliative care in their communities. Our work includes the development and implementation of conferences, courses, and workshops in collaboration with internationally recognized educators in palliative care. We also work to integrate the concepts of palliative care into the curricula of medical and nursing schools. We assist institutions and health care teams with establishing palliative care programs and providing palliative care by serving as a source of information and technical support.

Local Initiatives

Palliative Care in the Whole Patient:  Dr. Hibah Osman developed a 4-week module on palliative care as part of the Physicians, Patients, and Society course at the AUB Medical School. Since its first run in September 2014, this course has become a requirement for second year medical students as part of the new IMPACT Curriculum. The palliative care module has been rated very highly by students. For the first time, all students graduating from AUB’s Faculty of Medicine will have some had exposure to the principles and concepts of palliative care. Dr. Aline Zakhem took over teaching the course in the Fall of 2016 and students continue to find it inspiring and fun.

Capacity Building at Ain WaZein Hospital (AWH) (2015-2016):  Balsam launched a pilot project aimed at building capacity in palliative care with the support of the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health and the World Health Organization. The project involved training a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers to provide palliative care at Ain WaZein Hospital as well as the surrounding community.  Training began with a 5-day multidisciplinary course at the hospital that was organized and delivered in collaboration with Dr. Frank Ferris, Executive Director for Palliative Care Research and Education at Ohio Health. After the course completion Dr. Hibah Osman continued to work closely with the palliative care team at AWH for 4 months to help them establish an 8-bed palliative care inpatient unit.

Advanced Palliative Care Workshop (August 2016): The Balsam team organized a 3-day training workshop aimed at enhancing the knowledge and building the skills of people working in palliative care in Lebanon. The course was developed in collaboration with Dr. Frank Ferris, Executive Director of Palliative Medicine, Research and Education at Ohio Health and included 36 physicians, nurses, social workers and other health professionals from 9 institutions.

Introduction to Palliative Care and Advanced Palliative Care Workshop (March 2017): The Balsam team organized two 2-day training workshops  in collaboration with Dr. Frank Ferris.  An introductory course targeted health professionals interested in exploring palliative care concepts and developing basic skills in symptom management and psychosocial care. The advanced workshop targeted health providers already working in palliative care with the aim of enhancing their knowledge and skills. 

Regional Initiatives

2014 Kuwait: Dr. Hibah Osman contributed to a regional Training of Trainers in Palliative Care sponsored by the World Health Organization EMRO and the Gulf Federation Cancer Control with the support of the Kuwait Ministry of Health. The workshop was held in Kuwait City from November 23-26 with the participation of 23 trainees. Dr. Osman gave a workshop on Advocacy in Palliative Care as well as a lecture on management of GI symptoms.

2015 Fez, Morocco: Dr. Osman contributed to an International Palliative Care Workshop organized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in collaboration with the Department of Medical Oncology at Hassan II University Hospital. The workshop targeted 116 oncologists from Morocco and the region.

For more on Capacity Building see Annual Reports​.


 

Research

Scientific information on palliative care remains limited. Providers of palliative care can help advance the field by contributing to the current knowledge base. We are committed to contributing to scientific and practical research in palliative care by sharing our experiences and outcomes. One of Balsam’s most ambitious projects which combines research and advocacy is the ImPaCT study, supported by GlobeMed, a visionary third party insurance administrator. Launched in 2015, this two-year study will evaluate the impact of home-based palliative care on the cost of healthcare and quality of life for patients with advanced illness to produce research findings that will help inform policy makers and private insurance providers and is an important step towards integrating palliative care into the Lebanese health system.

2014 – 2017: Mapping Palliative Care in the Eastern Mediterranean: This study was conducted in collaboration with Drs. Arafat Tfaily and Alaa Rihan at AUBMC and Dr. Carlos Centeno of Universidad De Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. The Atlas of Palliative Care in the Eastern Mediterranean was launched at the Congress of the European Association of Palliative Care in Madrid in May 2017. The study is the first of its kind in the region. The results will help inform practitioners, researchers, policy makers and funders as they work towards developing palliative care in the region. A PDF of the Atlas can be downloaded free of charge at  Atlas EMRO 

For more on research see Annual Reports​.