The 3rd Kenya National Palliative Care Conference kicked off today at the Sarova Panafric in Nairobi Kenya. The three day conference hosted by the Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) aims to create a platform for participants to understand the importance of integrative palliative care services into the health care systems, sharing knowledge and experience and learning from best practices.

Palliative care involves making quality of life better for patients. This facilitates the well-being of patients, helps patients deal with their illness as well as gives prognosis support to the patient and their loved ones. This makes palliative care an important human rights issue because of the dignity of the patient.

According to Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui, an Education and Research Officer at KEHPCA, some important areas of training in Palliative care include: pain management, symptoms management, spiritual and psychosocial support, communication skills, care of carers, sexuality, breaking bad news, nutrition, death and bereavement.

The conference saw presentations from various care givers from Kenya and beyond on their experience and knowledge. Palliative care in Kenya started in Nairobi and spread to other parts of the country including: Machakos, Meru, Nyeri, Kakamega, Embu, Busia, Webuye and Coast Province. Palliative care has two integral parts: hospital based care and home based care.

According to Lydiah Warui, holder of a higher diploma in Palliative care at the Oxford Brooks University and a nurse at the Nyeri Provincial hospital, palliative care in Kenya has been offered by the few existing community based hospices addressing the issues related to outpatients and their families.

However, this approach fails to address the suffering of patients with life limiting illnesses while they are admitted in the hospital often leaving them with unrelieved pain and other unmanaged symptoms.  Since palliative care should start from the time of diagnosis which is usually done in the hospital, it is then appropriate that all hospitals should have a palliative care unit.

It is in this mind that the government of Kenya and KEHPCA started the process of integrating palliative care services within our hospitals especially Provincial and level five hospitals.

Success Story

The Nyeri palliative care unit, in the Nyeri provincial hospital started from unused toilet rooms with inadequate facilities. Despite the challenges, with the help of KEHPCA and nurse Lydia Warui, the palliative care has been integrated in the hospital and been established to become a centre of excellence for palliative care.

Additional information

Advantages of hospital based care

  • Proper management of pain
  • Communication
  • Care of emergencies
  • Enhance other hospital services
  • Research
  • Linkage between hospital and community Based hospices
  • Improve quality of life of patients
  • Create awareness to health professionals and community

Challenges facing palliative care in Kenya

  • Lack of trained personnel
  • resources e.g drugs
  • cultural beliefs
  • religious beliefs
  • denial
  • lack of family support
  • cost of drugs

Way forward

  • Train more
  • Advocacy
  • Proper referral and linkages with other palliative care providers
  • Institutional protocols