Every two years The Kenya National Palliative Care conference is held. 2014 November marked the 4th since its launch. The three day conference was held at the Laico Regency hotel Nairobi Kenya from the 12th of November to the 14th 2014. It was a success in terms of the turn out and the feedback from the attendees. There were about 300 delegates present at the conference. The objective of the conference was to sensitize the importance of palliative care making it part of everyday life, as the theme emphasized “Palliative care everyone’s business.” Nine countries were represented; Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Nigeria, Australia, Canada, U.S.A and the U.K. Talks from keynote speakers representing different hospices around the world and video clips on various topics in palliative care were used to relay the message. Every afternoon except for the third day, workshops were held with facilitators giving discussions on their experience in their respective fields. Delegates could attend the workshops according to their area of interest. Tea breaks and lunch was served at the event offering the attendees an opportunity to network and bond as they dine.
The conference kicked off at 8:00 am with Dr. Zipporah Ali (Executive Director KEHPCA) giving a breakdown of what palliative care is about, its branches and emphasized on the basic training of palliative care to medical students. She welcomed all delegates and thanked the donors and partners. “I hope this three day conference will make a difference in your lives, as we look forward to learn a lot from the speakers.”
Prof. /Dr Anne Merriman founder of Hospice Africa Uganda and a Nobel peace prize nominee spoke on the value of compassion to palliative care. “Compassion is the emotion of empathy that one feels in response to the suffering of others that motivates help.” She explained the ethos of their organization, encouraged team work, as we are not in competition against each other rather we are playing for the same team. African saying “If you want to go fast you go alone if you want to go far you go together” she concluded.
The Executive Director – Africa Palliative Care Association Dr. Emmanuel Luyirika nicknamed “The father of palliative care in Africa” started with thanking Dr. Zipporah Ali for the work she is doing at KEHPCA. He spoke on strengthening of palliative care by engaging the government and working in collaboration with W.H.O (World Health Organization). He listed roles the government should play including; Integrating palliative care training into the curriculum, foster partnerships between the government & the civil society, ensure adequate membership funding to provide basic support to the family and community among others. “Let us support each other from community level rather than hospital level to ensure palliative care is accessible.” Palliative care needs to start in the community.
Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Health Dr. James Macharia flagged off the conference marking it has officially started. Dr. Macharia commended the punctuality of the conference congratulating the organizers and the delegates for keeping time. “Punctuality and compassion are rare yet unique traits!” Life threatening diseases used to be perceived as particular group’s problem but slowly it is getting personal. No one can stand and say they are immune to life threatening illness. The Cabinet Secretary committed to provide funds for palliative care services. He allocated in the budget for 2014-2016 “It is our desire for palliative care to be integrated to all levels including community levels thus ensuring patients have access to services closer to their homes.”
Prof. Scott Murray university of Edinburgh gave a global perspective of why end of life care is everybody’s business primary palliative care “The fate of anybody who is born is to die,” “we all need palliative care to be there for us whatever we die of.” Other speakers of the day included; Dr. Izaq Odongo- head of Oncology Ministry of health who covered the current cancer situation in Kenya and Dr. Katherine Irene Pettus- international Association for Hope and Palliative Care had a video on improving access of palliative care and pain treatment.
SECOND DAY NOVEMBER 13th 2014
The conference gave delegates from different countries and different organizations working towards the same goal an opportunity to mingle. Palliative care is worldwide movement. It was encouraging to see everyone is working to ensure awareness is raised. Each country represented had a chance to show what was happening in their country (in terms of palliative care). The second day kicked off with a documentary of KEHPCA in collaboration with Tropical Health Education Trust (THET) showing palliative care impacts in people’s lives. Gave a preview of the different hospices in Kenya and how far the journey of KEHPCA has been.
Dr. Liz Grant presented next on the Business of Palliative Care: a THET project perspective. “Palliative care is a business and just like a normal business one must offer unique value” she said. Palliative care is to be taken seriously like any other profession or business. Dr. Grant also talked on the importance of money in the palliative care giving a quote that would give a clear understanding “Money is like petrol during a road trip you don’t want to run out of it on your trip, but you are not doing a tour of petrol stations” Tim O’ Reilly.
Reaching everyone in Africa, principal from the THET project was covered by Executive Director – Africa Palliative Care Association Dr. Emmanuel Luyirika. He highlighted the background of the organization, principles, cross cutting issues, how the project related to the W.HO. (World Health Organization) public health approach to palliative care, how the project related to WHO HSS building blocks and way forward for Africa. “Strengthen partners leaving them better than found!” Dr. Luyirika, lesson he learnt from THET. Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui (KEHPCA) followed talking about creating centers of excellence in level five hospitals in Kenya also touched on the progress the waterloo project is making.
Prof. Debra de Silva concluded the morning session with an interesting presentation on giving tips on evaluating Palliative Care Services. “Evaluating what you do is important as it highlights good things taking place as a result of hard work, attracts funding and gives ideas to improve.” An award ceremony followed in the afternoon, Prof. /Dr Anne Merriman founder of Hospice Africa Uganda and a Nobel peace prize nominee, Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell USAID-ASSIST Project Chief of Party and Dr. Brigid Sirengo, OGW CEO- Nairobi Hospice were awarded. They were surprised and happy some moved to tears. Workshops were included and a cocktail in the evening to relax the delegates, entertained by a re- known Kenyan band Kayamba Africa.
THIRD DAY NOVEMBER 14th 2014
The final day started with a workshop discussing Paediatric Palliative Care- Identifying need and developing services for children’s palliative care. It was facilitated by Prof. Julia Downing of International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) and Dr. Zipporah Ali (KEHPCA).
A Kimbilio Hospice documentary (space in between) featuring the life of a patients suffering from cancer was played. The video demonstrated palliative care making a difference in the patient’s life and how she died in dignity. The clip left everyone in the room moved to tears. Prof. Downing gave a three country report on children’s palliative care later. Other keynote speakers followed each covering different topics on palliative care; Including Dr. John Weru, Aga Khan University Hospital and Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell, Country Director University Research Company and Chief of Party-USAID-ASSIST Project.
The 4th Kenya National Palliative Care Conference 2014 ended with closing remarks from Dr. Scott Murray and Dr. Zipporah Ali KEHPCA giving vote of thanks to all that made the conference a success.