Objective: The number of palliative care patients in Trinidad and Tobago is unknown. The purpose of this study is to estimate the prevalence of palliative care patients on a public general medical ward.
Methods: A retrospective cross-sectional study was undertaken to collect information on patients' diagnoses, symptoms and Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) scores. Patients who would benefit from palliative care services and satisfied inclusion criteria were referred to as palliative-care-appropriate patients.
Results: The one-month prevalence of palliative-care-appropriate patients was found to be 23.47% on an acute medical ward of a public hospital. Most of these patients had diagnoses that were either neurologic or cardiac in nature. Pain (46.8%) and dyspnoea (51.1%) were the most common symptoms documented for palliative-care-appropriate patients. Seven (14.95%) palliative-care-appropriate patients died while in hospital.
Conclusion: There is a significant palliative care burden in this pilot study as evidenced by the high prevalence of palliative-care-appropriate patients on a general medicine ward. A larger prospective study should be undertaken to elucidate the number of patients who could benefit from hospice and palliative care services. Palliative performance scale scores may be considered for more widespread use in the Caribbean.