The theme for Palliative Care Day this year: Hidden patients with hidden lives. Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA), the umbrella body of palliative care services in Kenya mobilized hospices and other palliative care providers to reach out to patients and families who have limited access to services like prisoners, patients in remote areas and children. KEHPCA supported Nairobi Hospice to visit prisoners at Kamiti Maximum Prisons.

There’s nothing but happy faces from Nairobi Hospice, Medical Social Worker , Lynette Kitui and Nurse/Training Coordinator Jessicah  Ng’ang’a for work well done. And even more happy faces from KEHPCA who helped fund the event. This has come after the first ever open forum to create palliative care awareness in Kamiti Maximum Prison.

The recent visit to the prison by the Nairobi Hospice and KEHPCA is evident that patients living in such places with little or no proper palliative care face a lot of challenges. These patients need very special treatment in terms of medical services, good nutrition among others. However, because of the circumstances in prison, they do not get such.

KEHPCA, in conjunction with Nairobi Hospice, has taken a step to curb this problem by reaching out to these patients to not only create awareness but to also help care for them by training health care personnel based at the prison.  The prison administrator has allocated space and deployed staff to provide the services. Some of the services provided include; pain control, symptom management, counseling and psychological support through support groups.

 “We are supporting the palliative care team to provide the necessary services because we acknowledge that prisoners are human beings, just like us and they need to be treated with respect and care especially the ones with terminal illness”, says one of the administrators.

Despite this great milestone, prisoners continue to face challenges e.g. proper blood sugar control among diabetic patients because the unit has few glucometers, sometimes patients miss their appointment at Kenyatta National Hospital due to logistical challenges.

“We are aware of these challenges and we are in discussion with other stakeholders to come up with solution especially on the issue of clinic appointments”, adds the administrator.

One of the palliative care team member reported that they have experienced an increase in number of prisoners who require palliative care,

“Currently we have over 65 patients suffering from various illnesses; diabetes, HIV, Cancer, TB and other conditions that require our support”.

KEHPCA Programs Director, Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui, says that the prison’s administration has also noted this problem and sometimes allows families of the patients to chip in and help in providing certain medicine or special diet. This is because of the limited resources in the prison, he says. He also adds that inmates have created support groups so that these patients do not feel neglected and alone even with their health conditions.

Officer in charge, Mr. Kisingu is really happy about the event and is thankful to the inmates for willing to show up. One of the inmates even narrates a sad story,

“We lost one of our own because when he was diagnosed with diabetes, he did not accept the condition and was not taking his medication properly.  This initiative will help overcome some of these challenges”.

With great speeches and interactive talks, the half day event was a success. The Nairobi Hospice also gave gifts to the inmates in attendance as a show of appreciation for the acceptance of this life situation and their willingness to put it out there for the better treatment of those with incurable diseases.

“These sick inmates need to be reached out, because they need the care too. And this is in accordance with our theme ‘hidden lives, hidden patients.’” Director KEHPCA, Dr. Zipporah Ali.