Our History

The initiative for the development of the Galilee Hospice Project and for the Pilot Program of Palliative Care operating between 2010 and 2012 comes from His Eminence Nikolaos, Metropolitan Bishop of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki. The preparatory work for the project commenced three years earlier in 2007 with the design of appropriate facilities, the training of personnel and demographic research into the needs for palliative care.

The initial plan of action for the Galilee Hospice Project involved:

1. The determination of the structure for the provision of palliative care, of the target patient group and of the geographic area to be covered


Palliative care in the primary healthcare sector can, in accordance with international standards, be offered in the patient’s home, in day centres and in a specially designed residential unit known as a Hospice.

In the design of the Pilot Program international experience was adapted to the Greek reality. Home care was chosen on account of its lower costs for development and operation, its flexibility and its greater amenability for evaluation at a pilot stage. Serious consideration was also given to the fact that patients often choose their home as the place for care during the final stage of their illness.

In the pilot phase the program was confined to patients with cancer, on account both of the large and increasing number of individuals with cancer and also on account of the personnel’s experience in the sphere of oncology.

The geographical area to be covered was defined as the boundaries of the Holy Metropolitan Diocese of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki.
The determination of the structure for the provision of palliative care, of the target patient group and of the geographic area to be covered

2. The identification of the problems and needs of patients and their families


  • In palliative care the patient himself participates actively in determining and prioritizing his needs and problems as well as in planning his care.

To determine the patient needs that the unit would cover, a clinical study was undertaken to assess the palliative care needs of cancer patients being treated at the ‘Saint Savvas’ Cancer and Oncology Hospital in Athens. This study revealed among other things the need for palliative care at home.
The identification of the problems and needs of patients and their families

3. The creation of an organization for palliative care at home, the acquisition of legal recognition and operating licenses and the recruitment of staff in accordance with existing legislation


To this end an ecclesiastical organization was set up under the name ‘The Galilee Palliative Care Unit of the Holy Metropolitan Diocese of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki’.
The initial operating license was granted to the Diocese by the Ministry of Health (Department for the Protection of the Family). Once the legal procedures had been completed, the Articles of Constitution enabling Galilee to offer palliative care services were published in the official Government Bulletin (FEK).
The creation of an organization for palliative care at home, the acquisition of legal recognition and operating licenses and the recruitment of staff in accordance with existing legislation

4. The recruitment and training (both theoretical and practical) of suitable health professionals and also the recruitment of suitable trainers and advisors in palliative care


The initial announcement of the project and the training and selection of the personnel took place with the help of specialist trainers from the Romanian Hospice Casa Sperantei in Brasov. The initial procedure for the selection of the personnel, and all the subsequent selection procedures took place as follows:

  • About thirty professionals (doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, physiotherapists and priests) took part in a five-day seminar on ‘Basic Principles in Palliative Therapy’. On completion of this, those who so wished undertook a written examination on those basic principles.
  • Those who successfully completed this stage went on to a personal interview before a committee comprising three members.

On this basis eight health professionals were chosen to undertake a five-day practical training program at the Hospice Casa Sperantei, after which a number were employed by the Galilee Palliative Care Unit.

Up to the present time there have been six annual seminars of this kind which have been attended by 185 candidates. From this pool of candidates the Galilee Unit has recruited the staff to meet its various needs. In each case the candidates would first observe the work of the interdisciplinary team and after coming to mutual agreement for co-operation they would be formally employed. Those who participate in the seminars and those who are employed are able to access continued training in palliative care once a month on issues that they encounter in everyday practice.
The recruitment and training (both theoretical and practical) of suitable health professionals and also the recruitment of suitable trainers and advisors in palliative care

5. The configuration and equipping of suitable office space


On the initiative and at the expense of the Holy Metropolitan Diocese of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki, office space at the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in the town of Spata was renovated and suitably configured for the Galilee Project. The building houses medical examination rooms, offices, a conference hall, an emergency care unit, a hydrotherapy facility, a seminar/meeting room and a Centre for Day Care and Occupational Therapy.
The configuration and equipping of suitable office space

6. The securing of funds and sponsors


Since the services provided by Galilee are offered to patients free of charge, the project relies for financial support on the Diocese and on the «Michael Choniates» Charitable Foundation of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki. Thanks to the Bishop, other sponsors such as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation have been found. Many anonymous donors and relatives of the patients also contribute to the running costs of the Unit. Since February 2013, "GALILEE" has enrolled in a European Union Funding program (National Strategic Reference Framework NSRF), which, in collaboration with the Greek state, will cover 80% of the expenses for a period of two years.
The securing of funds and sponsors

The Pilot Program 2010-2012: Following the recruitment of the professional staff, the establishment of the legal framework and the creation of the necessary facilities, there followed the phase where a Pilot Program 2010-2012 was put into action. This involved:

7. The planning of the Pilot Program in co-operation with the «Saint Savvas» Cancer and Oncology Hospital in Athens


The contract of affiliation with the Hospital, which was signed at the initial phase of the Pilot Program, envisaged the home care of the cancer patients from this Hospital who (a) were residents of the geographical area covered by the Galilee Project and (b) desired to participate in the program.

The patients come from all stages of the disease: diagnosis, support through the initial treatment and thereafter, post-treatment check-ups, diagnosis and treatment of recurrence of the disease and the support of the patients and their families during the final phase of the illness, as well as support of relatives during the period of mourning. The patients of the unit are able to be admitted to the Hospital for care at any point in the course of the disease where this is deemed necessary.

During the course of the Pilot Program, the Unit began to offer its services to other cancer patients who have been treated in, or are presently, patients of other Hospitals.
The planning of the Pilot Program in co-operation with the «Saint Savvas» Cancer and Oncology Hospital in Athens

The Evaluation and Procedure for Accreditation of the Program
The Galilee Palliative Care Unit has been incorporated in the National Register of Institutions in the Private Sector of a non-profit making character that provide services of social care.

8. The recruitment, training and roles of volunteers


Volunteers are recruited into the Galilee P.C.U. following an application and a personal interview. There follows a training program which is completed through 40 hours of formal teaching and interactive exercises in accordance with the models used in Orthodox pastoral care and the Anglo-Saxon system for training volunteers in Palliative Care.

There are at present fifty volunteers who have completed their training and are fully active in supporting the patients, families and Galilee., A new group of thirty volunteers is undergoing their training this year, and already participate in non-patient-facing services and activities.
The recruitment, training and roles of volunteers

9. The recruitment, training and roles of volunteers


Volunteers are recruited into the Galilee P.C.U. following an application and a personal interview. There follows a training program which is completed through 40 hours of formal teaching and interactive exercises in accordance with the models used in Orthodox pastoral care and the Anglo-Saxon system for training volunteers in Palliative Care.

There are at present seventy volunteers who have completed their training and are fully active in supporting the patients, families and Galilee. A new group of thirty volunteers is undergoing their training this year, and already participate in non-patient-facing services and activities.
The recruitment, training and roles of volunteers

10. The Interdisciplinary Team


The moving force in the Galilee P.C.U., as in every palliative care unit, is the interdisciplinary team. To meet the multi-dimensional and complex needs of the patients and of their families, it is essential for all who serve in the various sectors of the interdisciplinary team (doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, etc) to work together in harmony in the preparation and application of the personal care plan for each patient.

Today the people who work in the Unit on a full-time, part-time or voluntary basis are: three doctors, six nurses, three social workers, a priest who is also a General Medical Practitioner, a physiotherapist, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, a researcher, an office manager, a secretary and the volunteer service manager etc.

The Unit is supported by four voluntary professional advisors who are among the most eminent members of the medical and nursing professions in the country. In addition, two experienced specialists in palliative care (a doctor and a nurse) from the Romanian Hospice Casa Sperantei in Brasov contribute systematically to the development program of the unit and to the training of the staff.

The work of the unit is further assisted in scientific and technical matters on a voluntary basis by a lawyer, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a microbiologist, an IT specialist, a pharmacist and a dietician.

The day begins with the morning briefing in which all the members of the interdisciplinary team participate. First on the agenda are the calls to the emergency telephone during the night, the most urgent needs and any deaths which may have occurred. The needs and problems of each patient are discussed by each specialist as they concern his or her particular area of expertise. The findings are evaluated and assessment is made of whether the goals of the patient care plan that have been set have been achieved and at the same time new goals are set. At this time, the program of weekly visits is organized in arrangement with the patients and their carers. Patients or members of their family will often visit the Galilee offices for an interview and/or medical examination.
Teams of two or more members of the interdisciplinary team then undertake home visits during which they provide all-round care and support to between two to five patients a day. In planning the visits, the special problems of the patients and of their home circumstances are taken into account.

When the teams return to the Unit at mid-day, the patient’s records are updated along with a reassessment of symptoms or problems and goals and actions to be taken.

Once a week, there is a longer morning discussion of patients’ problems attended by the interdisciplinary team and also by the professional advisors to the program and by the volunteer service manager.

Twice a month, at another meeting a theoretical topic of interest in palliative care is highlighted and briefly discussed and at the same time the factors that determine evidence-based care practice are underlined (as they emerge from the international bibliography on the subject).

Once every two weeks the team members meet with a psychologist who offers support concerning the difficult experiences encountered in providing care to the patients. Difficulties and problems that may have arisen through the daily close working relationships among the team members are also discussed.
The Interdisciplinary Team

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