Experts are in talks with the National Hospital Insurance Fund to expand its coverage to include end-of-life palliative care.

The initiative led by Nyeri Deputy Governor Dr. Caroline Karugu aims to ensure timely access to palliative care by all Kenyans.

Palliative care is provided to terminally ill patients, easing pain and suffering so they can die with dignity in an environment with family and friends.

It is also applicable early in the course of an illness in conjunction with other therapies to cure or prolong life such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and antiretroviral treatment.

Karugu was introduced on Thursday as the Kenyan Palliative Care Ambassador at a Nairobi hotel.

The World Health Organization says palliative care can help patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, HIV, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis drug-resistant TB and rheumatoid arthritis.

Other conditions include congenital anomalies, blood, and immune disorders, meningitis, neurological disorders, and neonatal conditions.

“I will lobby every office in this land. Wherever you need a door knocked on,  I will knock. We have to make sure people can access quality hospice and palliative medical care.

“This should not be a discussion of ‘please’, it would be a discussion of when,” Karugu said.

Lack of access to palliative care and pain relief is a public health crisis in Africa, she said.

Data from the Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association show about one million Kenyans requires palliative care.

Fewer than 15 per cent of adults and one percent of paediatric patients have access to such care.

“I have lived with family members with cancer. That is why I am so passionate. There is a lot of fear when it comes to cancer screening. We need to advocate for Persons Living with Palliative Care needs,”Karugu said.

Nairobi Hospice CEO Ruth Were said the cost depends on the condition. On average, consultation and medication costs about Sh1,000 but can go as high as Sh3,500 depending on procedures.

The costs might be higher if a patient comes with a wound or might require an injection. In case of home visits a typical trip costs about Sh2,000.

This means the treatment cost for outpatient patients costs an average of Sh1,000 to about Sh5,000 while for inpatients it might be as high as Sh15,000 due to the different tests.

The cost also varies from one facility to another. As of October, there were 70 health facilities that provide palliative care in Kenya.

They include units in faith-based facilities, private and public hospitals as well as free-standing hospices in both urban and rural areas.

“Access to palliative care is a real and neglected human right. A painful and distressing end of life is an unacceptable reality for too many people in Kenya,” Were said.

“This is due to limited access to medication for pain, limited health professionals trained in palliative care, few national policies, weak government commitment, and a lack of funding for implementation.”

This article was written and originally published by a journalist in one of the daily newspapers in Kenya. Please find the link to the story here: https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2020-11-12-experts-want-nhif-to-cover-end-of-life-care/