The high number of patients presenting with life threatening illnesses especially cancer in Murang’a County has triggered the District Hospital to move with haste in establishing a palliative care unit to address their plight.
Most patients visiting the hospital are referred to Nyeri Hospice and Nairobi for management and further treatment respectively, some services which could be offered at the hospital with availability of an equiped unit within the hospital.
During a Continuous Medical Education (CMEs) session to the Murang’a Hospital health care team, Dr Kahura J K, the Hospital Physician said that they not only receive patients from outside but also some of their staff have also had personal incidences of cancer and other life limiting incidences.
Dr Kahura said the hospital was dependent on Murang’a Hospice which relocated to Maragua following space limitation at the county government offices where it stood.
“The hospice is picking up but patients are finding it to be a far place to receive palliative care,” said Dr Kahura.
He added that the hospital has allocated a room for the palliative care unit and gladly reported that the County Government has agreed to meet its renovation costs and a recent office furniture donation from Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association Recently (KEHPCA) would go a long way in equipping the unit.
The Hospital Physician said that most incidences are Breast, Cervical, Ovarian, and Lymphoma cancer.
Palliative care nurse M/s. Monica Juma has a Diploma in Higher Education in Palliative with five more nurses having completed the induction course.
M/s. Juma said that the palliative care concept was incepted as a clinic by Nyeri Hospice following the high number of patients that visited them from Murang’a.
“The Hospice helped in mentorship of the team at the hospital and offered drugs to support the palliative care clinic,” said the Nursing Officer.
The Murang’a team conducts home visits to patients from around the hospital given that they have no vehicle to facilitate home visits far from the hospital.
She appreciated the hospital management with lead support from Dr Kahura for the corporation they have shown in the effort to establish a unit within the hospital.
“The patients we have seen and their relatives have appreciated our support for we have assisted some even to write their wills,” said M/s. Juma.
KEHPCA’s Executive Director Dr Zipporah Ali in her presentation said that most people think that palliative care is for the dying yet it is meant to alleviate patient suffering with the aim of curing sometimes, relieving often and comforting always.
Dr Ali told the hospital staff that everyone can provide palliative care given that it is a concept easy to practice with a change of mindset and it can be offered anywhere.
“Palliative care is now a right recognised in the Kenya National Patient Rights Charter launched by the Ministry of Health in 2013 and they can demand it,” she added
She said that in palliative care, the patient is the most important person adding that it is a service well deserved for all for our patients get depressed due to their illness and they need a holistic care approach.
“Most people think that palliative care is a luxury service that can be afforded by the rich yet it can be easily accessed by patients from all backgrounds,” said Dr Ali.
Head of palliative care at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) Dr Esther Munyoro said that patients present late and there was a need to create more awareness among patients and doctors as it is the most important course of action in our collective fight against cancer.
Her sentiments were echoed by the hospital Pathologist Dr Njau Mungai who said that the problem is big and the cancer treatment approach that is in place is wanting.
Dr Munyoro said the queue at KNH is ever increasing for patient needing cancer treatment indicating that they are currently scheduling patients for treatment in 2015.
The European pain in cancer survey established that pain was the highest criteria leading patients to seek out a health care professional on which a diagnosis of cancer was made yet it is the least assessed and attended to by health care providers.
“Most patients are put on wrong treatment yet they have cancer. It is good for us to be wrong by thinking of cancer when patients report pain and work backwards. We need to bring the cancer closer to us as most of us think cancer is far away unless we are victims,” she said.
She said that most people do not tend to think of children cancers yet they are common adding that everybody needs to know facts because when it comes to cancer, we are all at risk.
KEHPCA’s Special Coordinator for access to pain relief and palliative care Dr Esther Muinga took the participants through the pain assessment, World Health Organisation (WHO) pain ladder and opioids dosage and urged participants to always assess patient’s pain for proper pain management interventions using correct treatment options.
The Murang’a Hospital team appreciated shared knowledge and promised to put it into practice in their various professions.