It is estimated that in South Africa, eighty percent of the population’s first port of call when illness strikes is to a Traditional Healer. These Traditional Healers, also known as ‘Sangomas’ use a combination of herbal remedies and spiritual practices to treat their patients.
The Hospice Palliative Care of South Africa (HPCA) took a bold step forward in a bid to increase the reach of palliative care by developing and piloting a training course on the basic principles of Palliative Care for both adults and children. The task team looked at developing a curriculum that would be practical, useful and encourage as much dialogue and communication as possible between the Traditional Healers and their local hospice services.
The course was broken up into an initial three days of training followed by a four week break where the Healers were encouraged to incorporate what they had learned into their practices. This was followed by a two day course which focused on consolidation of learning and discussion.
At the final certificate ceremony, attended by members of the local Health Departments and government, the Traditional Healers praised HPCA for their foresight and vision and thanked all the trainers for the respect that they had shown.
Cyril Vilikazi, a Sanogma herbalist from Howick, KwaZulu Natal stressed the importance of having a “concrete relationship between us as healers and hospice.” He praised that excellence of the training and the trainers and said that the Healers now understand that people at hospice are not people that are necessarily going to die tomorrow. Before the training, he said that “There was a misconception that those people who go to hospice are going to get an injection and are going to die.”
Connie Ngcobo, a Healer who was once a remedial teacher described how she cares for over 300 children who have been infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.