Nakuru Hospice and Palliative Care Center officially opened its doors amid increased demand for palliative care service in Kenya.
The unit was started because of the concerted effort of Mrs. Elizabeth Ndung’u, who is the founder and current Chief Executive Officer.
Mrs. Ndung’u, whose father was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, spent a lot of money in a three-year battle.
“At one point I had to give out my car for hire to generate income to raise the income needed for his treatment.” She narrated to the guests who attended the launch.
She said she was advised to go all the way to Nairobi to buy medicine, which she discovered were only Ksh.3000 cheaper, a no significant amount.
She continues with her story;
The car that used to generate income got an accident and the income was no longer coming through.
It is then that a friend advised her to put the father under palliative care and was introduced to Nairobi Hospice.
I approached our doctor and enquired if there was a hospice in Nakuru to which a negative answer was given.
After my father passed on in February 2006, an idea struck me and I approached the Rift Valley Provincial Medical Officer on the idea of beginning a hospice in Nakuru.
A building was allocated after consultations with Nakuru Provincial General Hospital but the challenge we had, it was an old burnt building that needed renovation.
We also got a room allocation in casualty at the hospital where we started offering palliative care services to the patients therein.
Safaricom Foundation came to our aid and offered to renovate the building up to a tune of five million shillings and here we are with a modern hospice.
The renovation was done in the year 2009 and the health care workers moved to the new facility in April 2010
So far, over 800 patients have passed through the hands of Nakuru hospice through hospital visits and home visits with referrals flowing our way from various hospitals in and out of Nakuru town.
Nairobi hospice has been instrumental in the establishment having conducted two trainings to the staff at the hospice in 2009 and another sponsored by Africa Palliative Care Association (APCA) in June 2011.
A lot other well-wishers have come in handy to furnish the building with furniture, water storage tanks and drugs.
The Constituency Development Fund (CDF), under the area Member of Parliament Lee Kinyanjui, donated a van to the hospice to facilitate home visits.
Elizabeth said the challenge they have is getting funds to fuel the vehicle and pay insurance to keep it on the road.
“We need more drugs to meet the increased demand as our policy is that we shall not deny a patient drugs just because they lack funds.” She said.
She added that they intend to begin daycare sessions once a week to bring patients together and create a sharing platform where they can share and encourage one another.
Elizabeth appealed for well-wishers to come forth, support the hospice, and make it stand out in palliative care in the region and the country at large.
Mr. Ogutu said that giving money may not be significant but when you see it touching people’s lives, we are filled with joy.
“It is my prayer that every county in the country has a hospice to give palliative care services to patients across the nation.” He said.
He added that every little thing that we may do towards pushing the palliative care agenda would go a long way in the struggle to have more hospices in the country rather than waiting on the government to act which may take a long time.
Roads assistant minister Lee Kinyanjui said that most students who complete high school are idle and if we tapped into their energy in volunteer programs at such facilities, we can serve more Kenyans.
“We should look for ways of tapping these young energies to valuable courses through such programs which should be sustained by the community.” Mr. Kinyanjui said.
He added that as a country, we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand on cancer treatment and we need massive campaigns to educate the community.
Mr. Kinyanjui said there is limited number of doctors in the country who deal with cancer, tallying it at less than ten.
“With the current population of 40 million in the country, we will cheat ourselves that we can have timely diagnosis of cancer for possible treatment.” He said.
He said that this is a progressive disease and any delay in getting its diagnosis will lead to a spread whose treatment is not affordable to most Kenyans.
“We need to invest more in training oncologists across the country, targeting every county as we also aim to have a fully operational cancer center at the county level in the near future.” He said.
On cooperate sponsorship, Kinyanjui challenged corporates to sponsor training for ten doctors each year, which will progressively lead to 50 oncologists in five years who will be enough to be deployed in each county.
He commended the effort of Nakuru Hospice following its recognition by learning institutions as an attachment center for their students.
“It is through this platform that students have a hand on experience on what is needed in the field of palliative care at it receives recognition in the country.” He said,
KEHPCA’s training and research officer Dr Asaph Kinyanjui recognized the extra effort the hospice is doing in screening, on top of offering palliative care services.
“The staff here is small but the magnitude of the services offered to the community is overwhelming.” Kinyanjui said.
He said that KEHPCA will continue offering technical support to the hospice and urged more supporters to come on board to ensure prosperity of the hospice.
The Nakuru Hospice chairman Dr Timothy Olueny said palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach and doctors should not be looking solely on treating the illness but see treatment as a holistic approach.
Dr Olueny said cooperates should not focus on finances alone, but the skills their staff has can go a long way in supporting palliative care in the country.
“Due to poor and late diagnosis, cancer is slowly becoming a major killer illness in the country and we heed to act fast to arrest this trend before it moves out of hand.” He said.
Nakuru Hospice will alongside other services offer paediatric palliative care services in its quest to offer holistic care not only to adults and elderly, but also to children whose palliative care needs are gradually receiving recognition across the globe.
This is the second among 17 hospices in the country that have recently opened their units after completion or subsequent refurbishment in the ongoing effort to make palliative care services accessible to all Kenyans with live threatening illnesses.