International team visits Hospice Ethiopia

Categories: Education.

Hospice Ethiopia is currently two years into a five-year grant from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). However, due to a change in CDC’s funding strategy meaning that funds are directed through the Ethiopian Health Bureau, the money is no longer available to Hospice Ethiopia.

A main point raised during the visit was the importance of securing small grants, as this can cushion against the shock of a major funder leaving suddenly, as well as instilling the idea of fundraising as the business of everyone in the organisation.

The visitors discussed with Hospice Ethiopia and other NGOs – Strong Hearts Ethiopia and Cancer Care Ethiopia – the reconstitution of an Ethiopian Palliative Care Association to coordinate and strengthen palliative care activity in the country. 

The visitors accompanied staff on home visits. Sr Basemera noted that: “Hospice Ethiopia offer skilled clinical care and there are no concerns regarding the excellence of the work they do.”

The Pain Free Hospitals Programme

As part of the visit, the four visitors taught a class of about 30 people at the Zewditu Hospital, a government hospital and medical school in central Addis Ababa, in the Pain Free Hospitals programme.

The Pain Free Hospitals programme is an Ethiopian Ministry of Health initiative, backed by the American Cancer Society. The programme delivers teaching on pain control to doctors, nurses and pharmacists in nine government hospitals in Addis Ababa, along with the provision of oral morphine solution.

On the course, James and Sue Mumford met three doctors and three nurses who had attended a five day course on palliative care that they had taught on a previous visit to the country. All had retained knowledge of their training and in one case had been involved in training community nurses.

Dr Mumford said: “This was an important opportunity to reinforce training and to help continue to promote palliative care in Ethiopia.”

Availability of oral morphine for palliative care

At one of the Pain Free Hospitals training sessions, the civil servant responsible to the Minister of Health was present, as well as the Medical Director of the Zewditu hospital, Dr Hezkiel – a gynaecologist who is a champion of palliative care.

Dr Mumford said: “Both were impressed by the training. While we were there, the Ministry of Health representative handed over a document to the medical director of the hospital, Dr Hezkiel, saying that 4,000 bottles of oral morphine were to be delivered to Zewditu Hospital.”

Dr Hezkiel reported that this official documentation confirmed that e-pharm – the pharmaceutical organisation in Ethiopia that the Ethiopian Ministry of Health contracts to prepare the oral morphine solution – had produced 30,000 bottles of oral morphine liquid and these 4,000 bottles  being delivered to the Zewditu hospital were part of this contract.

Prior to this, oral morphine was only available at one hospital in the entire country (the Black Lion Hospital – called Tikkur Anbessa in Amharic) and was only prescribable by the four oncologists at this hospital.

Dr Mumford said: “This new development was very encouraging and further suggests that the importance of palliative care is beginning to be recognised by the government and that action is being taken to strengthen palliative care in the country.”

Supporting Hospice Ethiopia

Towards the end of the visit, Dr Merriman gave an inspiring talk to the staff at Hospice Ethiopia, outlining the importance of working together as a team and exploring all the possibilities for fund raising, including enlisting local financial support and the possibility of offering support/work in kind.

Dr Mumford said: “We feel that, despite the serious funding challenges faced by Hospice Ethiopia, the profile of palliative care in the country is improving. It is more important than ever to support Hospice Ethiopia in every way possible at this difficult time.”

Find out how you can support Hospice Ethiopia by emailing Hospice Africa UK.

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