Ministry of Health and Child Care joined the rest of the world in celebrating Hospice and Palliative Care Day yesterday under the theme “Palliative care: My care, My Right”.
The day was commemorated globally every year on the second Saturday of October concurrently with the hats on-Day for children’s Palliative Care which is observed annually on the second Friday of October.
The commemoration was an opportunity to create more awareness among both health professionals and the general public on palliative care.
Speaking at the event, Deputy Director Non- Communicable Diseases Dr Justice Mudavanhu noted that there is a growing demand for palliative care in Zimbabwe.
“Although Health institutions have the right services for palliative care provision, there is limited coverage of palliative care. There are high levels of stock outs of essential palliative care medicines and there are financial barriers that limit access to holistic palliative care.”
“The need for palliative care in Zimbabwe is estimated at between 200,000 to 250,000 patients per year but only 2% are able to access the service.”
“95% of adults and children with non-communicable disease require palliative care. Some HIV and drug resistant TB patients also require palliative care and they account for 5% of patients receiving palliative care in Zimbabwe,” said Dr Mudavanhu.
Although there is a growing demand for palliative care, there is inadequate palliative care trained personnel in our health institutions.
“There is a severe shortage of palliative care providers and a general lack of resources for palliative care delivery. Only 42% of health facilities in Zimbabwe have at least one palliative care trained health worker, the majority (79%) of these health workers are nurses.”
“There are shortages in the supply of PC medicines as reflected by the frequency of emergency orders and prevalence of stock outs for tracer essential palliative care medicines,” Dr Mudavanhu said.
In Zimbabwe, more than 250 000 children and adolescents below 20 are diagnosed with cancer every year and 90 000 do not survive. Many more remain undiagnosed and unreported as 80% of these children do not have access to cancer screening. To this end there is need there is need for improved service delivery in the form of knowledge, skills and tools that enhance the early identification of patients who require palliative acre and to increase screening and referral of patients to the next level of care.
In order to address the afore identified challenges, there is need to train more care providers in palliative care, advocate for more financing in palliative care, as well as promote palliative care amongst both care providers and communities. These actions remain critical to address the observed deficiencies in availability and access to palliative care services in the country.
“Since the rolling out of the Palliative Care strategic framework and implementation in April this year, 315 health professionals were trained in palliative care. 110 nurses and 330 health promoters were trained in early childhood cancer detection.”
“Nurses who have benefited from the sensitisation meetings are further cascading down the palliative care integration information to fellow health professionals and the community at large including health workers,” He said
Pamuhacha in collaboration with Hospaz trained nurses in Makonde and Zvimba districts. These in turn cascaded down the palliative care integration information to 540 health care workers in their districts.
The sensitisation of both health workers and the community is on-going and more health professionals will be trained in palliative care in the short to medium term.