Webuye District Hospitals is among the few district hospitals that have embraced palliative care by setting up a room and dedicating a nurse to attend to patients with life threatening illnesses.
Speaking in his office during a visit by Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) officials, the hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Caesar Bitta said the room needs a bit of renovations to make it fully functional.
“We are struggling with morphine which we are getting from Eldoret Hospice.” Dr Bitta said.
He said that they are yet to get the morphine being supplied by the government in order to meet the demand.
Dr Bitta was concerned with the high turnover of medical officers at the hospitals as one recently trained in palliative care was transferred to another location but hopes that they will manage the situation.
The medical superintendent appreciated the sponsor support they received from the Family Medicine Programme at Moi University Faculty of Health Sciences through the Dutch cooperation in furnishing the palliative care unit.
“We need to set up a section where patients can sit as they wait for services from the staff at the unit.” Dr. Bitta said.
Palliative care nurse in charge of the unit M/s. Odilia Juma said that they are struggling with follow-ups at the unit.
M/s. Juma appreciated the medical superintendent for the continued support he gives to the unit.
“If we need a vehicle to visit a patient, Dr Bitta is readily willing to give us and this has enabled us to make a few home visits.” She said.
She said that they are limited in terms of patient support and at times they are forced to get something from their pockets to give to the needy patients.
The palliative care nurse said that Cervical Cancer is the most common among the patients in the region followed by cancer of the oesophagus. Breast Cancer comes third adding that other cancers are not common.
She attributed the rise in reported cancer cases in the region due to continued screening at the hospital and sensitization in the region adding that future screening would lead to even a further rise.
KEHPCA’s Coordinator for pain relief Dr Esther Muinga said that the hospital is in the list of those to receive morphine from the government through Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA).
“You need to place your orders now that the government has started ordering morphine for hospitals that have integrated palliative care.” Dr Muinga said.
Concerns raised from the palliative care team at the hospital included lack of funds, shortage of staff and limited reading materials.
They said they are using the internet to update themselves in palliative care adding that it is helping them offer better services to patients.
The team requested to be considered in future for palliative care training to equip them with knowledge and enable them attend to patients more professionally.
The hospital Senior Nursing Officer M/s. Bridget Waluchio said that more home visits and outreaches would inform the community that palliative care is available at the hospital.
M/s. Waluchio said that people need to know that there is a lot of care that is offered at the palliative care clinic as most patients think that going to the clinic means they have cancer.
“We have just started using the room and it is operating full time as a palliative care nurse has been stationed there.” She said.
She added that they had just lost a patient and they are arranging to pay the family members a visit soon.
The nurse in charge attributed their progress in palliative care to the dedicated multidisciplinary team that is committed to work.
“When the concept of palliative care was first brought to me, I fought it and often put it aside but now I understand it is a great service for our patients.” M/s. Waluchio said.
She said any little help they may receive to boost the unit in offering palliative care to the patients will be highly appreciated.
The unit is currently seeing 55 patients and the number is set to go up with increased awareness and screening in the region and other regions including Bungoma, being the only hospital offering palliative care in the region.