Setting up home-based palliative care in countries with limited resources: a model from Sarawak, Malaysia

Ann Oncol. 2008 Dec;19(12):2061-6. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdn422. Epub 2008 Jul 17.


Background: The provision of palliative care (PC) and opioids is difficult to ensure in remote areas in low- and middle-income countries. We describe here the set up of a home-care program in Sarawak (the Malaysian part of the Borneo Island), where half the population lives in villages that are difficult to access.

Methods: The establishment of this program, initiated in 1994 by the Department of Radiotherapy of Sarawak General Hospital, consisted of training, empowering nurses, simplifying referral, facilitating access to medication, and increasing awareness among public and health professionals about PC.

Results: The program has been sustainable and cost efficient, serving 936 patients in 2006. The total morphine usage in the program increased from <200 g in 1993 to >1400 g in 2006. The results show that pain medication can be provided even in remote areas with effective organization and empowerment of nurses, who were the most important determinants for the set up of this program. Education of family was also a key aspect.

Conclusion: The authors believe that the experience gained in Sarawak may help other regions with low or middle resources in the set up of their PC program especially for their remote rural population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Malaysia
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morphine / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Workforce


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine