In central Kenya,in Kiambu County lies the beautiful landscapes of coffee and tea plantation that creates a serene atmosphere. The long meandering roads leads us towards Gatundu town.
Far beyond the small town, we get into the premises of Gatundu Level 4 hospital. As we make our way into the premises we are welcomed by Peninah Njenga, Palliative care Coordinator. She is all smiling and enthusiastic to take us through our visit in the unit. “Karibuni sana hapa Gatundu Level 4, we have been waiting for you” (“Welcome to Gatundu Level 4 hospital, we have been waiting for you”) says Peninah.
Mentorship has been a key activity by Thika level 5 palliative care team to the Gatundu level 4 Hospital where they seek to integrate palliative care services. The brightly painted walls gave us a warm welcome into the palliative care unit. We were already impressed even before we had the meeting with the team. We met a few patients who had come for their review, routine checkups and collection of medicines.
Dr. Kinyanjui (Programs Director- KEHPCA) and Dr. Debrah de Silva from The Evidence Centre London held a brief discussion with a few of the health care workers trained previously on palliative care. “The main challenge I am facing in the gynecology ward is that patients presenting in their late stages of cervical cancer, majority are experiencing heavy bleeding. I feel overwhelmed and it feels sad to lose a patient as young as 32 years.” said Susan, a nurse in gynecology ward. Despite coming from a night shift, the nurses were ready to sit with our team from KEHPCA and Thika Level 5 team to discuss on the way forward to help scale up palliative care services in Gatundu Level 4 hospital.
“Since the beginning of May 2016, when the unit became operational, I manage to care and support about 3 patients in a day. Most of the patients have a diagnosis of cervical cancer. Some are already admitted in the wards while others come as outpatient. We also have a deficiency of specialties in our unit” added Peninah. The team hopes that the hospital management will deploy various healthcare workers from different departments to work full time at the unit. “Patients need holistic care to live a quality life.” said Njeri a clinician working closely with the palliative care unit.
Following a meeting held same day with the medical superintendent a lot was discussed on how to assist the unit to widen access for both inpatient and outpatients on palliative care services. The medical superintendent – Dr. Nyaga, advised on the need to identify a team of health care workers who are interested to work closely with the palliative care team, have intensive trainings for them and patient follow ups. “All these will ensure that the unit is able to operate without much constrains” added the Nursing Manager- Betty Kasyoka. The administration promised to continue supporting Peninah and her team with whatever will be required to serve the patients better.
KEHPCA has been in the lime light offering support to palliative care providers in the country. They pledged to support Gatundu whenever they are called upon for training of the health care workers technically and also provide mentorship to have palliative care services up and running.
Team work was highlighted to healthcare workers present as a key requirement to offer better services to the patient. Gatundu team was very grateful for the visit and support they have been getting from Thika Level 5 palliative care nurses team and KEHPCA team.