The Ministry of Health has confirmed receipt of 2.2 kilograms of morphine for management of severe pain in government hospitals that have integrated palliative care.
The Special Coordinator for Access to Pain Relief and Palliative Care from the Ministry of Health attached to Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) Dr Esther Muinga said that the 2.2kgs has been received by the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) through Laborex Ltd Kenya.
Dr Muinga said that this is a positive step for the Ministry of Health as only injectable morphine has been in the Essential Drugs List.
She said that the ministry hopes to receive the remaining amount in due time to help health care providers comfortably manage pain in hospitals.
“The Ministry of Health will contact the pharmacists from the hospitals that KEHPCA has been working with so that they can make orders as per their need.” She said.
This move aims to boost the care for patients with life limiting illnesses e.g. cancer in the country that Dr Muinga said has been on the rise in the recent past.
Dr Josephat Mbuva, a pharmacist from the Ministry of Health said that this is the first time they are procuring morphine powder.
Dr Mbuva said that most practitioners in the health sector have phobia in morphine use leading to expiry of previous injectable morphine procurements at the KEMSA stores.
“Since KEHPCA informed us its advocacy and sensitization among health care providers, we initiated a procurement of 22kgs for a start but only 2.2kgs have been delivered.” He said.
This, he said, is due to the amount of morphine requirement in a country among other considerations and the amount procured could not be delivered all at once.
Dr Mbuva said that following the procurement procedures in line with the law that make the process lengthy, delivery could be slow adding that the remaining amount would be in the country in the next six months.
KEHPCA and the Ministry of Health regard palliative care as an integral and essential element of the national cancer programme in management of pain and end of life care.
Currently, 9 Level 5 Hospitals have fully integrated palliative care in their systems to enable patients receive this supportive care from the time of diagnosis. A record 30 more Level 4 Hospitals are on target this year as KEHPCA and its stakeholders seek to drive the palliative care agenda to the grass roots in the country
With its focus on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients, palliative care is appropriate for patients in all disease stages; those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses, those living with chronic diseases as well as patients nearing the end of life.
Remarkable progress has been achieved in integrating palliative care in the Kenya health systems with over 40 facilities including hospices, government hospitals as well as private ones delivering palliative care currently, up from 14 Since KEHPCA was founded in 2007.
Rural community palliative care is also provided by health facilities including Our Lady Hospice Thigio in Limuru and Kibera Integrated Community Self-Help Program – Kenya (KICOSHEP-K) in Kibera.
According to a World Cancer Report, over 12 million people in developing countries are diagnosed with cancer and the number is expected to hit 15 million by the year 2020 with anticipation of the figure doubling by the year 2030.
Two-thirds of these patients are likely to experience moderate to severe pain that according to the WHO step ladder for management of pain, will require opioids for management. It is therefore essential that clinicians are skilled in management of pain and that opioid medication is available on country Essential Medicines Lists
According to the National Cancer Control Strategy (NCCS), around 80% of reported cancer cases are diagnosed at advanced stages with many dying due to limited access to the high cost of cancer treatment.
“Despite the gains, there is need for further advocacy on palliative care as well as learn from others how palliative care can be enhanced and delivered more effectively in the interest of the patient suffering in pain and the family after the patient passes on,” said Dr Zipporah Ali, the KEHPCA Executive Director.