Over 30 officers stationed at the Kamiti Medium Security Prison underwent a three days training in palliative care.

The training, facilitated by Nairobi Hospice with funding from Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) aimed at equipping the officers with prerequisite knowledge in care of patients with life limiting illnesses.

Officially opening the training, the Officer in Charge Madam Olivia Obel said that there are several inmates within the facility with life limiting illnesses.

“This course will help the officers who are in charge handle these patients from a more informed angle.” Madam Olivia said.

She said that the knowledge of palliative care was made possible through one of the staff members who escorted a patient to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) where Nairobi Hospice is situated and saw the care the hospice was according their patients.

“He recommended that we invite the hospice team to educate our officers in palliative care to enhance care for the ill within the facility.” She said.

Madam Olivia said there are patients who are escorted by the facility officers to hospital and it is important for them to be equipped with information on how to handle them with regard to their rights as human beings.

She thanked the hospice staff for having time to visit them to offer such a worthy course with hopes that it is going to change the perspective of the facility officers towards the patients.

“We have referral challenges of inmates to hospital from the clinics situated within the facility and I am optimistic that this will improve with time especially after this training.” The Officer in Charge said.

The Nairobi Hospice training coordinator, M/s. Jesca Ng’ang’a said that the course entailed a discussion on the officers’ attitudes towards terminal illnesses and death among other areas in palliative care.

“There was need to assess their psychological and emotional reaction to death and dying and enhance this skills for them to apply it to patients within the facility.” Said M/s.  Ng’ang’a.

She said that this was the first training they were having at a correction facility and was optimistic that there shall be more to come to enhance care for the patients with life limiting illnesses within prisons.

Other aspects of the training included grief and bereavement, HIV/AIDS and Cancer situation in the world today, Spiritual and Cultural issues and Nutrition in palliative care.

During the spiritual session, Rev. John Mark emphasized on the need to let patients at their terminal stages of illness know that they will have a dignified sendoff and those who will remain behind will be loved.

Rev. Mark said that it is important that warders apply cultural and spiritual diversity of the inmates and appreciate their differences.

“Spiritual and emotional healing helps the inmates deal with the challenges they face throughout their illness and life in prison.” He said.

He added that it is important to be compassionate for our patients will be spiritually and emotionally healed.

Rev. Mark said that some of the inmates know that they are in the facility for life but through spiritual healing they would have an understanding that they can be free and live life to the fullest.

“Their judgement was delivered by a judge in Kenya but it is good to let them understand that our God is merciful and they can be forgiven.” He added.

He said that what kills patients mostly is not the sickness but the depression and fear of the unknown and spiritual support could help alleviate the fear.

Rev. Mark advised the participants that if a patient joins in prayer, it should be brief, precise and focused on the wellbeing of the patient.

The medium security facility houses the Kamiti Youthful Corrective Training Center that admits boys with petty offences between the age of 17 and 21 years.

Officer in Charge Fairbain Ombeva said that the youth are trained through various programs most of which are entrepreneurial.

“We have a farm where we keep rabbits, poultry, rear goats, a cow as well as crop farming in our rehabilitation programme.” Ombeva said.

She said that there are several organizations that come in to assist the boys majorly in counseling so that they can accept their crimes and reconcile with the family members.

“We have sick boys and our challenge is that we have no health facility of our own to admit them. This means they have to be admitted at the medium facility where they mix with the hardcore criminals.” She said.

The officer in charge said that tuberculosis is the main disease challenging them adding that the boys are screened before admission to the facility and those found with the ailment are isolated and treated.

“Though we have no facility for isolation, we try our best to avoid the spread of the disease and having palliative care training for our officers would improve our attendance to the ailing children.” She said.

Besides that, Ombeva said that they train the boys on how to stay free from TB and other ailments as well as having basic computer training for them.

“We currently have 61 boys who have been admitted after committing offences including stealing, assault, abuse of drugs and trespass.” She said.

The senior superintendent said that they have trained teachers who take the boys through various programmes at the correction facility.

“We do needs assessment and place the boys where they fit because there are some who were in school and others who have never been in school and do not wish to be put in any class. In such case we identify which area they have interest in and allocate them accordingly.” She said.

In 2012, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) supported the Kenya Prisons Health Services capacity building in different aspects of holistic HIV care and management.

Different health care professionals from the Kenya Prisons Services participated in a week long introduction to palliative care course facilitated by KEHPCA in conjunction with facilitators from Nairobi Hospice, Kenyatta National Hospital Palliative Care Unit and other private practitioners.

Participants during this initial course came from 20 institutions of health in the prisons health department.