Despite the many challenges faced at various levels of its development, there is willingness to develop palliative care and there is a shift to centralize political power at the county level, which holds promise that palliative care can develop from the ground up and the top down.

This is according to report by traveling fellow Stephen R Connor, Sr Fellow to the World Palliative Care Alliance, published in the International Association & Hospice Palliative Care (IAHPC) newsletter.

Connor’s report is pegged on his visit to Kenya during the 3rd National Palliative Care Conference held in September 2012.

He conducted two workshops, one on communication skills in palliative care and another on how to write an abstract for conference presentations.

Connor gave two plenary presentations, the first on new results about palliative care development worldwide, including Kenya, from the forthcoming Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End-of-Life and the second highlighting the results of an international demonstration research project on Decent Care Values in Palliative Care Services conducted in Nairobi.

Other visitations made while in Kenya include Cancer Care Kenya where Connor spoke on psychosocial issues in cancer care to clinicians, patients and volunteers alongside Dr.Jim Cleary whose presentation focused on palliative care in oncology.

They made a visit to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board to discuss the low consumption of morphine in the country and to encourage them make sure that the morphine use was not discouraged.

Connor alongside others visited Thigio Hospice and he describes it as a wonderful community based program run by the Daughters of Charity.

Thigio Hospice is a 9-bed inpatient residential hospice for patients that are unable to receive home based care.

He later met the Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) Executive Director Dr Zipporah Ali and looked at the mortality data in the WHO/WPCA Global Atlas to estimate by province the need for palliative care in Kenya.

Connor says Kenya lacks good national mortality data adding that it is making great progress in palliative care development in cooperation with the government.

He pledges to continue working with Dr Ali and the entire team at KEHPCA on the challenges Kenya is facing in palliative care provision.

Challenges

Palliative care in Kenya is not fully integrated into the healthcare system. This may be due to lack of sensitization and resistance to change in some health care institutions.

There is inadequate  trained health care personnel  in remote regions leading to lack of understanding of what palliative care entails.

Myths and taboos play a great role in this but various organizations in Kenya are struggling to dispel most of the myths in line with this year’s World Cancer Day theme.

This is according to a report by Mildred Agnes Waka of Kenyatta National Hospital published in the same newsletter indicating that communities in Kenya need to be exposed to a sensitization programme about the importance of verbalizing pain which will allow adequate care to be given to them without resistance.

Waka says that most pharmacies in the country do not stock opioid drugs since they know them as “dangerous” drugs that should only be stocked by the country’s major hospitals under lock.

“Since most professionals aren’t sure of how to use them, the opioids expire, never reaching the patients who need them.” She says.

In her report, Waka says that by educating and empowering the professionals and the government officials about the rational and effective use of these drugs, it is possible that they could be made available at an affordable price to ease patients’ symptoms.

She adds that some communities, language is a barrier that breaks down communication leading to most patients ending up without appropriate healthcare.

“Utilizing interpreters could help break this barrier and reach many patients who lack health care.” She recommends.

Waka feels that partnering with other organizations in provision of care and training might help promote palliative care service provision to more health care institutions.

“As a palliative care professional, it is my sincere wish that putting forth a great effort, my colleagues and I can change the image of palliative care in my country.” She says in the report.

Waka wishes to thank the IAHPC and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund for providing the scholarship for her diploma studies conducted jointly by Nairobi Hospice and Oxford Brookes University.

To read the IAHPC website to read the full report.