August 2016 TheMonitor; The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, has asked African health ministers to adopt palliative care services in their health systems to improve quality of care given to critically ill patients.
Also referred to as pain relief, palliative care is a mode of treatment where patients with incurable diseases like cancer and HIV/Aids die without feeling severe pain.
Dr Rugunda, while opening the fifth International African Palliative Care Conference at Speak Resort Munyonyo, on Tuesday, said the sub- Saharan African region is experiencing a double burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
“This has increased the need for secondary and tertiary healthcare for our populations,” Dr Rugunda said. “However, all over Africa, most patients delay seeking medical attention and access to curative services is limited. Africa has no choice but to invest more and now in palliative care services,” he added.
The Prime Minister also said Africa has the least access to palliative care and the per capita consumption of morphine for pain and symptom control is even below the global average, an indication that patients and families still don’t have adequate palliative care and pain relief service.
However, some ministers are worried about the misuse of morphine, the drug used for pain relief.
Mr Omar Sey, the Gambia Minister of Health, said there is fear of addiction to morphine and this remains one of the major challenges affecting the adoption of palliative care in his country.
Dr Jane Aceng, Uganda’s Health Minister, allayed her counterparts’ fears of morphine misuse, saying that Uganda has free access to oral morphine but no case of addiction has been registered.
Palliative care in Uganda was introduced by Prof Anne Merriman of Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU) in 1993.
Yesterday, the Prof Anne Merriman Hospice Africa Foundation was launched to ensure that the vision of the organisations she founded; Hospice Africa (HA) and Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), prosper in the future.
Speaking at the launch of her foundation, Prof Merriman, who is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee said: “Every human being on the planet no matter their colour, creed or social background should expect a pain- free, peaceful end of life.”
She urged world leaders and policy makers to ensure that people in Africa experience a good death.
“We need strong and powerful advocates to support this cause,” she said.
Since its founding, HAU has cared for more than 27,000 patients and has 2,000 patients on programme across its three centres in Kampala, Mbarara and Hoima.
Dr Aceng applauded Prof Merriman for bringing hope of controlling severe pain into Africa.
Only Uganda, Malawi and South Africa have palliative care integrated in their care modalities which include health promotion, preventive, curative, rehabilitation and palliative care. However, more African countries grapple with inadequate funding for palliative care and limited human resource .
The consumption of morphine in Uganda stands at 0.73 per capita. However, the drug has side effects and is addictive to people who take it without any disease. Some diseases that need palliative care include: diabetes, HIV/Aids, Hepatitis B and Tuberculosis.