Palliative care service provision began in Uganda in 1993 through the establishment of Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU). This hospice served as a model for the continued development of hospice and palliative care services across the country and throughout Africa.
The growth and development of Palliative Care Association Uganda (PCAU) in collaboration with Ministry of Health played a key role in initiating and scaling up palliative care provision in the country. Palliative care is now an important component of health care services at all levels of health care service provision in the country. Currently, 69 out of 112 districts offer palliative care services, and it is spread across government facilities and non- governmental organizations (NGOs).
Palliative care is an approach that improves quality of life of patients and their families facing the challenges associated with life threatening and terminal illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering; by means of early identification, comprehensive assessment and treatment of pain. It also offers psychological and spiritual counselling as well as support to clients to perform physical activities that promote fitness.
The Ministry of Health supported the introduction of affordable oral morphine as the essential medication to support the delivery of palliative care services, and has made oral morphine available to control and moderate pain at no cost for all patients in Uganda.
In 2004, Uganda was the first country to allow specially trained palliative care nurses and clinical officers to prescribe morphine unlike in other countries where this is left to highly qualify medical personnel.
In the ministerial policy statement of 2014/14, women were recognized as being key providers of health care support to patients in health facilities and clients at home. Effort must therefore be made, by all stakeholders to continuously sensitize and empower women as a special group; to provide palliative care services at all levels of health care.
The Ministry Of Health has initiated the process of working on a Palliative Health Care Policy. This shall be an important landmark that shall comprehensively guide the country on implementation of palliative care services at all levels. All relevant stakeholders shall be called upon to actively participate and contribute to this important policy in order for the Ministry of Health to plan for and provide high quality care in the country.
The Ministry of Health recently launched three documents: legal aspects of Palliative Care, a training manual for health care providers at all levels and the History of Palliative Care in Uganda. This was in effort to sensitize the public and spread information about this very vital service.
In terms of embracing and rolling out palliative care services, Uganda in collaboration with Hospice Africa Uganda and Africa Palliative Care Association pioneered and is now introducing palliative care services in both Anglophone (Nigeria, Malawi, Botswana, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya among others and Francophone countries n Africa e.g. Cameroon, DRC, Rwanda.
In addition to other life threatening illnesses, palliative care is an essential part of the package of care for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other chronic life-limiting illnesses. It has been recognized by the World Health Assembly as an “urgent humanitarian responsibility” and by the palliative care International Community as a human right. Integration of palliative care into national health systems has been identified as a key step required in increasing access to palliative care. The Ministry of Health will make every effort to ensure high quality sustainable palliative care services in the country as rightfully deserved by the people of Uganda.
As a step towards strengthening this initiative, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Palliative Care Association Uganda and other stakeholders are working in partnership to promote the following:
- support comprehensive integration of palliative care services in every district of Uganda,
- increase awareness on palliative care services,
- promote sustainability mechanism of this service in the country through creation of strong membership and sustainable financing mechanisms
- gather information to enable formulation of evidence based policies and interventions
- scale up training of health workers on palliative care and
- provision of a good regulatory framework
To this effect, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Palliative Care Association Uganda, has organised the 5th Bi – annual meeting that will take place 29-30, August at Imperial Royale Hotel – Kampala.
The above mentioned meeting will bring together researchers and practitioners, to share experiences and best practices in Africa and suggest best ways forward on how to make palliative health care better and more accessible.
My Ministry recognizes the media among our key stakeholders; to sensitise the masses, communities and individuals at household level on utilization of available palliative care services in the country, and where these can be accessed.
Therefore, I count on all of you in the Media Houses to actively take up responsibility to continuously share all relevant factual information that is helpful to the people in need of the palliative care services.
I thank you all.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY
Hon. Sarah Achieng Opendi
Minister of State for Health Primary Health Care