The African Palliative Care Association (APCA) ran a hybrid training session hosted in part at St Luce’s Kisantu Hospital, about 130km south of Kinshasa and also online (Zoom) to train 45 health professionals as part of the regional approach to increase access and availability of controlled medicines in Francophone countries on the African continent. Participants included pharmacists, doctors from different specialties including oncology, paediatrics, surgery, psychiatry anaesthesiology, as well as nurses, spiritual care chaplains, among others.
Expertise was drawn from specialists within the DRC, and from Uganda, as well as experienced nurses and physiotherapists from Pallia Familli, a palliative care NGO that has been running palliative care programmes for a long time in the country, and has been advocating for support to carry out such capacity building in the DRC.
This project is aimed at ensuring sustainable access to controlled medicines that are essential medicines, and usually used in psychiatry, surgery and anaesthesia, alcohol and substance abuse disorders and palliative care for the management of moderate to severe pain as well as in general practice. This project typically involves working with the government institutions and other willing third-party organisations in Democratic Republic of Congo to build mechanisms that will support and sustain rational use of these controlled medicines while preventing diversion and non-medical use.
With about 34 participants meeting at St Luce’s Kisantu Hospital, and 15 others attending online from another 10 hospitals, the training ran from the 5th to the 9th of July,2021, and saw enthusiastic participation and engagement of the trainees in the subject matter. Many were learning about palliative care for the first time, while others were enhancing previously acquired skills. The presentation of actual patient cases brought a lot of the learning into life, and prepared the trainees on what to expect back in their work stations.
Topics covered in the training included both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches in managing palliative care patients including;
- Use of controlled Medicines in General Practice
- Use of controlled medicines/ psychotropic medications in the management of mental, neurological, and substance use disorders
- Palliative Care for children and adults
- Aspects of spiritual care
- Connecting with the community
- Preparing national and hospital plans for use of controlled medicines
- Managing the supply chain for controlled medicines
The training was hailed as a critical step in building the capacity of health professionals in DRC, and will be followed up with monthly mentorship and support sessions until the conclusion of the project.
Earlier in the year, the African Palliative Care Association successfully carried out a reconnaissance visit to the DRC to engage with the key stakeholders at Ministry of Health and understand the root cause of the challenges they experience in running palliative care programs. Physical visits to some of the participating hospitals and other stakeholder organisations were also made to strengthen ties with the relevant civil society organisations as a way of building a multi stakeholder team. The physical visit was a follow up to several activities that were and continue to be carried out virtually.
The next steps involve ongoing mentorship and support to all hospitals that were trained as well as to the Ministry of Health to implement some of the measures towards ensuring access to, availability of and rational use of controlled medicines. Follow up virtual and physical experiential visits to Uganda are scheduled to take place in the course of the year.
The project is funded by the Belgian government and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and implemented by APCA in partnership with Pallia Familli. It contributes to the UNODC-WHO-UICC joint global program on increasing access to controlled drugs for medical purposes, while preventing diversion and misuse.
The online component of the training was hosted through a partnership with ECHO.
Special thanks to the Ministry of Health of DRC, the DRC Directorate of Pharmaceutical and Medicaments, University of Kinshasa Teaching Hospital, the Cancer Department in DRC for offering support and the Ugandan Ministry of Health, Uganda National Medical Stores, Butabika National Referral Hospital, Hospice Africa Uganda and Uganda Cancer Institute for offering experiential learning facilities