Regional palliative care program in Extremadura: an effective public health care model in a sparsely populated region

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007 May;33(5):591-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.02.021.


The Regional Palliative Care Program in Extremadura (RPCPEx) was created and fully integrated into the Public Health Care System in 2002. The local health care authorities of Extremadura (a large sparsely populated region in the west of Spain with 1,083,897 inhabitants) decided to guarantee palliative care as a basic right, offering maximum coverage, availability, and equity, functioning at all levels of assistance and based on the complexity of the case. The program provides full coverage of the region through a network of eight Palliative Care Teams under the direction of a regional coordinator. The mobile teams work in acute hospitals and in the community. This paper describes the program, using qualitative and quantitative indicators of structure, process, and outcome. Qualitative indicators assess, among others, the performance of the regional network, including the outcomes of the quality, training, registry, treatment, and research groups. Quantitative indicators applied consisted of the number of professionals (1/26,436 inhabitants), number of patients (1,635/million inhabitants/year), number of activities/million inhabitants/year (6,183 hospital and 3,869 home visits; 1,863 consultations; 14,748 advising services; 11,539 coordination meetings; and 483 educational meetings), cost of care (2,242,000 Euros per year), and opioid consumption (494,654 daily defined doses/year). Four years after the planning process and three years after becoming operational, the RPCPEx offers an effective and efficient model integrated into the public health care system and is able to offer comprehensive coverage, availability, equity and networking among all the structures and levels of the program. Several structural and organizational tools were developed, which may be adopted by other programs within the scope of public health. The provision of palliative care should not be conditioned by the patient's geographical location, his or her condition or disease or on the ability to pay, but on need alone. This model has successfully implemented palliative care in a region that offered many challenges, including limited resources and a disperse population in a geographically extensive region. These variables are also common in many rural areas in developing countries and the regional palliative care program offers a flexible approach that can be adapted to the needs and resources in different settings and countries in the world.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Drug Utilization
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / economics
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration*
  • Population Density
  • Public Health
  • Regional Medical Programs / economics
  • Regional Medical Programs / organization & administration*
  • Spain
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid