Chogoria Palliative Care Unit, 12 years later

Categories: Care.

Since its inception in the year 2001 through funding from the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, Chogoria Hospice has continued offering palliative care to patients with terminal illnesses.

According to Mr. Leonard Gitonga, a nurse and coordinator of the palliative care unit, most patients had been suffering silently with end of life related complications.

This was revealed after a community needs assessment carried out that led to the setting up of the unit to take care of such patients from a catchment area of about a million people.

The community needs assessment revealed that 75% of terminally ill patients are stigmatized thus denied the care that they deserve.

The number of active patients at the hospice has gone up to 260 active
patients as at end of March this year with prostate cancer being the most common.

“The hospital supported the initiative of having a palliative care unit
and this made it easy to set aside space for the same.” Mr. Gitonga
said.

The unit receives referrals from inpatient at Presbyterian Church of East Africa (P.C.E.A) Chogoria Hospital, outpatient, the community by volunteers, health facilities within the catchment area, self referral and other palliative care centers.

The Diana Fund, Mr. Gitonga said, used to help us in paying for drugs and other medical supplies like wheelchairs .

In an effort to carryout home visits, the unit has three motorbikes to enable its officers pay visits to patients at their homes but are seeking for well wishers to donate a vehicle to improve their home visit services.

“The closure of Diana Fund was a big blow not only to us but most units and hospices that depended on it and we have since reduced our staff to cut down our costs.” Mr. Gitonga said.

He said that initially, they had five nurses whom they have had to reduce to three due to the gap left from the closure of the Fund and this leads to a burnout due to the increasing number of patients seeking their services.

The unit’s team include a doctor, nurses, social workers, physiotherapist, driver, IT personnel, accountant and a chaplaincy team.

On matters of spirituality, Mr. Gitonga said a non-denomination chapel and a prayer room at P.C.E.A Chogoria Hospital offer patients, staff and relatives somewhere to go to find stillness, peace and an opportunity to pray or reflect.

Despite the financial burden, the unit has also diversified its fundraising activities to meet their day to day expenses to meet the needs of their clients.

Some of the fundraising activities the unit uses to cushion their budget include a luncheon and mountain climbing.

“We are limited on the number of home visits to carry out but we try to manage at least two per week to patients who are very sick or newly admitted and in death cases.” Mr. Gitonga said.

This, he said, is the major challenge due to the costs incurred in transport and meals for officers going to the field.

“We offer an ongoing bereavement service to family and friends of patients who have been known to the palliative care unit. We recognize that bereavement is a natural process and everyone will cope differently with their grief.” He said

He added that they are able to manage pain with drugs often purchased by the Chogoria Mission Hospital where they are based.

“We do a lot of cost sharing with patients as we cannot turn them away when they come with no money. We try to assist to the best of our ability.” He said.

Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) through the
support from Hospice Care Kenya (HCK) has been able to purchase and
donate morphine to P.C.E.A Chogoria Hospital as a beneficiary member
organization that serves many patients in Eastern Kenya.

Day care services are available at the unit to clients who have a diagnosis of cancer or other life threatening illnesses. “We are able to provide support at any stage to those affected and also to their care givers.” Mr. Gitonga said.

Mr. Gitonga applauded the hospital doctors who always corporate with them to make their work easier saying that they are good friends of the unit.

The team consults across all wards, visiting registered patients and identifying new patients.

Services offered at the unit include counseling and support for patients and their families, pain relief and symptom control, adherence support for treatment, nutritional support and bereavement support.

In a recent visit to the site , KEHPCA officers were impressed by the good work the unit does and outlined the need for it to mentor Nkubu Mission hospital, which is starting palliative care services.

The palliative care coordinator thanked the association for the 100gms morphine donated during the visit adding that their clients have a reason to smile.