African Ministers of Health pledge support for palliative care

Categories: Leadership.

Delegations from the Ministries of Health from 17 African countries, as well as representatives from the African Union, traveled to Johannesburg to show support for a consensus statement on the integration of palliative care into healthcare systems in Africa.

The Honourable Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, Deputy Minister of Health for South Africa, co-chaired the meeting with Dr Jonah Wefuan, chairperson of APCA. The meeting heard technical country reports from  Ministers of Health and their representatives who reported on the progress of the implementation of palliative care in their country.

Following the country reports, the Ministers and their representatives reviewed and discussed the consensus statement. The Hon Minister chairing the session asked for comments from the meeting. Minimal revisions were tabled and accepted including: Recognition of progress so far in order to build on this for continued integration of palliative care, inclusion of babies, children and young people in the consensus statement.

Dr Anne Merriman, recognised by the Minister of Health for Uganda as: ‘The grandmother of palliative care” in that country, reminded all present that, while it is important to write and implement policy for palliative care provision and integration, we must not forget the patients and their immediate needs.

The consensus statement was revised by Dr Liz Gwyther and Fatia Kiyange for acceptance by the Ministers, who signed their support for: 

  1. The development of policy frameworks that strengthen health systems, by the integration of palliative care into hospital and community home-based care health services in order to reduce the suffering of the African people with life-limiting illnesses such as HIV, cancer and other communicable and non-communicable diseases, who are living with pain and other burdensome symptoms.

  2. The integration of palliative care services into national health budgets to ensure sustainable services.

  3. The use of the already established global and regional frameworks provided by the African Union and WHO, to ensure availability of, and access to, essential medicines and technologies for the treatment of pain and other symptoms being experienced by so many in Africa, including children. This includes the procurement and distribution of morphine, to ensure greater availability and access of this main opioid for the management of moderate to severe pain.

  4. The integration of palliative care into the nursing, medical school and other relevant training curricula and pre-service training programmes such as those for pharmacists, social workers, psychologists and the clergy. In addition, support shall be provided to candidates who desire to take up a career in palliative care. In-service training and capacity building on palliative care for health care providers is also critical.

  5. The sharing of palliative care best practices in clinical care, effective models and education across the continent, to ensure peer-to- peer learning across borders. Such practices adopt holistic care approaches that focus on the physical, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of a person’s being, by use of multidisciplinary teams to reduce the suffering of patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families. The provision of palliative care for particularly vulnerable groups such as neonates, children, adolescents, people with disabilities, and the elderly is essential.

  6. The development of partnerships across the continent between governments and other players in health, to ensure the sustainability of palliative care responses across the continent as well as promote quality improvement approaches at all levels.

Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, the Honourable Dr Ramokgopasaid: “We appreciate the initiative of the African Palliative Care Association and the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa for convening this meeting and inviting us as Ministers of Health in Africa.” The Honourable Minister told members of the press that she and her colleagues had been inspired to learn of the progress that had been made in the various countries. She noted that the resolutions proposed by APCA and HPCA presented an opportunity to build on past successes. 

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