Meru County Referral hospital is among the hospitals that have integrated palliative care services. There is a unit within the hospital that has a nurse stationed to coordinate palliative care to outpatients and the ones admitted in the wards. Stella Kathambi (head of the palliative care unit) reported a rise in patients requiring palliative care services in the county.
The most common cancers in the region are cancers of the esophagus, breast and cervix. Screening efforts have been put in place within the hospital with support from various organizations and the county team. Meru hospice has been working hand in hand with the palliative care unit to support these patients. Dr. Macharia, the medical superintendent at the county hospital acknowledged the need to have palliative care services available to each patient, committing to support efforts to improve them. The county hopes to establish a cancer treatment centre that will reduce the burden of patients seeking cancer treatment services who currently have to travel to Nairobi for their chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
There is a need to increase the number of palliative care service providers in the county due to the rise of patients needed these services.
A four day Introduction to Palliative Care training for healthcare workers in the hospital was conducted by Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA). This was within the hospital premises. There were 24 participants, 6 among them were from facilities outside the main hospital. The training content included; communication, breaking bad news, pain and symptom management, death and dying as well as care for the carer. Most of the participants noted that they had come across patients with life threatening conditions and did not know how to help them and that this training was indeed, an eye opener.
The participants were encouraged to visit the hospice and the palliative care unit so as to gain hands on palliative care skills.
“I now realize the need to show more compassion for patients” said one of the participants.