Vera Madzgalj– CEO of BELhospice, Serbia talks the challenges faced by BELhospice

Vera was appointed CEO of BELhospice in 2017. She joined the organisation at a time when it was undergoing considerable change because of the new hospice centre project. Vera has a Masters in Strategic and Project Management, a Project Management Institute certificate and is a qualified English language teacher.

Her background is in the development sector. She has managed projects and programmes for organisations such as Norwegian People’s Aid, CHF International, UNOPS, the EU and UNICEF and has also worked in the commercial sector and in child protection

Why did you want to be CEO at BELhospice?
I felt a personal connection with BELhospice. I have experienced family bereavement and understand how devastating it is for a person and that person’s family to face a diagnosis of terminal cancer. My work for four years in child protection gave me an insight into the needs of patients and particularly the support the patient’s family needs. That support is not available in the state system in Serbia have now recognised the need for a holistic approach to hospice care and are willing to try and help us put this into place. In addition our staff and our partners are now really engaged with the cause and are so excited about the benefits the new hospice centre will bring to those in our care.

How do you see the future of hospice care within Serbia?
I believe that hospice care will greatly expand. We already have NGOs and agencies contacting us from around the country wanting to learn from us. At BELhospice we want to start hospice care services for children and also provide our services for patients with other life-limiting illnesses, not just cancer.

Why do you think the new hospice centre is needed?
It is necessary because our institutional health care system is very rigid and does not provide an holistic approach to patients and their families. The system is orientated to cure not to care. It is important to have this human touch when people are suffering.

As I have already mentioned I think support for the whole family is important. The new centre will provide support for families and, once the in-patient unit is complete, we will be able to provide respite care to give those families a break.

Can you describe a patient’s story which has been particularly meaningful to you?
I have been on many patient visits and try to do this whenever I can.

One patient I visited had two children. He was trying to deal with both his illness and how this was affecting his children. He was more worried about what they were going through than his own health. Both of the children were anxious and frightened. It wasn’t clear who needed more help – the patient or the family. I was impressed with our nurse and how she managed to deal with the situation. She looked after the patient and attended to his needs as well as sitting and listening to the children. The visit was sad but motivating. When you understand the need and you are helping someone, it is a special calling.

If you would like to donate to the new hospice centre appeal please go to www.hospicesofhope.co.uk/appeal/ the-first-hospice-centre-in-serbia

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