On April 3rd 2012 (which, incidentally, was my birthday), I was given an opportunity at the Ministry of Health to make a presentation to the Heads of Departments on palliative care and the work KEHPCA is doing to integrate palliative care into government hospitals. Every once a month the Heads of Department at the Ministry of Health meet to deliberate on various issues on health and getting a slot to make a presentation at these meetings is not easy – I have been trying to get a chance for the last two years. Thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Ogaja, Deputy Chief Pharmacist in the Ministry of Medical Services who was able to facilitate the opportunity for KEHPCA to make a presentation. On this particular day, the Heads of Departments were also deliberating on the Health Law that is in the new constitution and I was given an opportunity to write something on palliative care that would be put in the health law document. My presentation focused on the great need for palliative care and access to appropriate pain medications in the country, the gaps and what needs to be done to make palliative care accessible for everyone in Kenya who needs it wherever they are. The presence of Dr. Izaq Odongo (Senior Deputy Director Ministry of Medical Services), Dr. Ogaja and Dr. Wycliffe Mogoa (Senior Deputy Direct Ministry of Medical Services) in the audience was very encouraging as both have worked closely with KEHPCA on the program of integrating palliative care into government hospitals.

The presentation generated a good discussion and a way forward for advancing palliative care in Kenya; issues of having a palliative care policy; a palliative care bill and guidelines were discussed. Dr. Ogaja was requested to work with the various responsible departments to ensure that morphine syrup is included on the standard medicine order form for government hospitals, as well as work with KEMSA to ensure that KEMSA stocks and distributes morphine syrup to government hospitals. This is key because, while morphine syrup is on Kenya’s Essential Medicine List, it is not available in majority of government of hospitals. The Ministry of Health promised to second a Ministry of Health Medical Officer to work with KEHPCA as the GAPRI (Global Access to Pain Relief Initiative) Fellow. This Officer will be the link person between KEHPCA and the Ministry to ensure availability, accessibility and affordability of pain relieving drugs in government hospitals. The Head of Departments’ meeting was chaired by The Director of Administration, Ambassador Felistas V. Khayumbi, who acknowledged the work that KEHPCA does and promised to work with her team to improve the situation of palliative care in Kenya.

KEHPCA wishes to acknowledge the support from the Ministry of Health on advancing pain relief and palliative care in Kenya. I wish to acknowledge the positive support from the Director of Medical Services, Dr. Francis Kimani. I also wish to acknowledge the support from Dr. William Maina, Head of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Dr. Patrick Waihenya, Program Officer in the NCDs department who have been very supportive all along. Dr. Elizabeth Ogaja and Dr, Izaq Odongo have stood by us throughout and strongly believe that palliative care should be an integral part of a successful health care system.

By Dr. Zipporah Ali