Machakos Palliative Care Unit (PCU) celebrated their third anniversary in style, officially receiving a van from Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) courtesy of a donation from Hospice Care Kenya (HCK).

Receiving the van, the unit coordinator Mr. Elijah Moni said that the van will help them reach patients who have challenges accessing the hospital within a radius of 25km.

“The van would help us reach the ever increasing number of patients in need of palliative care from Machakos and its surrounding counties.” Mr. Moni said

He said that within the three years the unit has been in operation, they have managed to reach 770 patients and their families.”

Mr. Moni said that in 2012, the unit was able to see 357 patients, a 91% increase from the previous year recording of 186 patients.

According to the coordinator, most patients that they take care of at the unit have cervical cancer followed by breast cancer.

He said that he unit has created awareness to 222 health care providers through Continuous Medical Education sessions.

Despite the van solving a major challenge that the unit has faced for some time, Mr. Moni said lack of space is hindering their intention of starting daycare at the facility to offer support to their patients.

“The pathway is not friendly to the patients using wheelchairs and we will keep asking the administration to construct a pavement to enable our patients access the unit with ease.” He said.

Though there is lack of enough staff for the unit to attend to the ever increasing number of patients from the three counties that they serve, Mr. Moni was grateful to HCK for employing two staff on a permanent basis, helping them purchase furniture and the van.

He said that most patients are not able to afford drugs due the poverty levels in the region saying that the unit will keep looking for local and international partners to help in cushioning the cost of drugs for such patients.

“We would like to improve the quality of our service delivery and act as a mentor unit to hospitals within Machakos and its neighbouring counties, Makueni and Kitui.” He said.

A prostate cancer survivor present at the ceremony said he had looked for treatment in many hospitals but none was able to identify his ailment until he visited Kijabe Mission Hospital after which he was referred to Machakos PCU.

“I have received proper care and I can move around and work from morning to evening just like any other person. I was very weak. Those who knew how I was before the treatment say I am good and I will fully recover.” He said.

He said his wish is for the unit to have facilities like radiotherapy to help patients who need such services instead of being referred to hospitals out of town.

Handing over the van, KEHPCA Executive Director Dr Zipporah Ali said it is promising to know that more patients would be seen with the availability of the van.

Dr Ali was grateful for the continued support from the hospital administration as it has always taken interest in the development of the unit adding that they also assisted in its renovation.

“Not many families come to appreciate the work of the unit but am glad to see families coming to appreciate the work Machaks PCU has done for them.” Dr Ali said.

She said that KEHPCA is working hard to ensure Machakos PCU and other units deliver quality palliative care to patients with life limiting illnesses.

“The government has embraced palliative care and the challenge on our side is to do the costing as requested by the health Cabinet Secretary in a recent meeting with KEHPCA.” She said.

She said that the association is trying to have district hospitals establish palliative care units adding that the country now has morphine from the Ministry of Health through Laborex.

Dr. Ali also thanked Hospice Care Kenya for the continuous support they have been giving hospices and PCU in the country. She urged Kenyans to learn from HCK which is supported by caring individuals who most times give money from their own pockets to support Kenyans. ‘Charity Starts at home, we need to support our own people as well’. She added.

Machakos Level 5 Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Martin Chabi thanked KEHPCA for the work it has done to the hospital.

“We are at a level of being a mentor unit for others and we are more than willing to invite our neighbors to join the palliative care field.”

He said that there is need for a lot of partnerships in palliative care for it to succeed adding that there is need to be at a level where the patient is not begging for the service but the service is available.

Machakos governor first lady Mrs. Josephine Thitu said that healthcare does not stop when medication stops.

“The ministry of health has recognized palliative care as an essential health care and all of us need to know what palliative care is.” She said.

She said that all citizens have a right to the highest most attainable health care as enshrined in the constitution adding that this has raised the par for health care workers.

“It is a requirement. We should try as hard as possible to offer the service as it is not a good thing to hear a patient screaming out of pain,” she said.

Present at the function was Dr David Wasambla, a comedian pediatrician, who is currently using his comic gift to raise funds to purchase heaters for children born prematurely.

He donated two heaters to Machakos hospital during the function.