The International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) 3rd bi-annual conference came to a successful end on Saturday. The conference, held in partnership with local organizations Umduduzi – Hospice Care for children, Palliative Treatment for Children South Africa (PatchSA) and the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA) and themed ‘Inspiration, Innovation, Integration,’ magnificently fulfilled its promise of providing a platform to learn, share and network for all those working with and caring for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions across the globe.
With delegates representing 43 countries, at the close of the conference one delegate from the UK wrote “Never before have I felt so much at home at a conference. Never before have I been surrounded by so many brilliant, kind, compassionate, unassuming and warm souls all at once. People who refuse to take no for an answer, for whom no wall is too high, no boundary impervious, no child less important than the others. People who insist on looking for the humanity that unites us all.”
The conference began on Wednesday with a full day of pre-conference workshops covering an array of important topics including children’s palliative care in humanitarian situations and difficult conversations in children’s palliative care. The workshops were facilitated by respected experts in the field of children’s palliative care such as Paul Quilliam, who together with his wife Gabrielle, established Hummingbird House, the only children’s hospice in Queensland, Australia.
The opening plenary session on Thursday included rousing performances by the Open Air School choir and the djembe drummers from Hillcrest Primary School, followed by presentations from Prof. Julia Downing, Chief Executive of the ICPCN; Dr MR Rajagopal, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Founder of Pallium India, as well as Dr Marie-Charlotte Bouessea from the World Health Organization. KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo presented on the recently published palliative care policy for South Africa, specifically a commitment to children’s palliative care. He challenged each province with a heavy burden of disease burden to assess where they are in providing palliative care for children.
Conference delegates representing 43 countries, were served a wealth of information from leading experts in children’s palliative care, including presentations on treating pain and managing difficult symptoms in children and young people, perinatal palliative care and . On the second day delegates were addressed by Huyaam Samuels, a young adult accessing palliative care services in Cape Town and the moving testimony of two Durban families who had been supported by Umduduzi, Hospice Care for Children through the illness and deaths of their child and who continue to be supported through their grief.
Extremely positive feedback from delegates including organisers being told by numerous delegates that the 3rd ICPCN Conference was the best children’s palliative care conference they had ever attended. In closing, Prof Julia Downing challenged delegates, asking them to “step out of our comfort zones, move forward and see how we can come together, collaborate and share ideas to ensure the over 21 million children in need of palliative care can receive it.”