Background and where it all started
Dr Janet worked for the Knysna municipality from 1994-2005 as a Medical Officer and during that time she started an AIDS NGO, and that is where, during her clinical work, she found that there were no antiretroviral drugs until 2004, and that honestly before that the best thing you could do for people with HIV was to manage their symptoms.
She then found out from a medical journal that there was a Masters course in Palliative medicine at UCT (University of Cape Town). After enrolling and completing the course while still working at the Municipality, she was offered a job as a doctor by the Knysna Hospice. They had never had a full time doctor before, they just had doctors coming for different sessions, so she started off as the first full time doctor in 2006.
The CEO at the time was volunteering for 5 years and after that he handed the position over to her. In 2006, Janet then became the CEO as well as the Doctor at Knysna Hospice and her experiences have been so rewarding.
Experiences for Dr Janet Stanford
As previously stated, Dr Janet has found her job extremely rewarding. At times, she recalled, the managing side of it had been been difficult because of the fact that she would have a very clear plan of how much she wanted to spend for the year, but the challenge came when she needed to actually come up with the plan to generate or accumulate these funds!
However, in the same breath she remarked on the absolutely fantastic support from their local fundraising efforts, like the two hospice shops and the amazing volunteers who put on events and, of course, the donor club initiative that they have going.
Awareness & Growth of Palliative Care
In Dr Janet’s opinion the awareness and growth of palliative care in general has been extremely positive, and a big indicator for her was the fact that initially there were only 30 patients at Knysna hospice when it started, with the majority being cancer patients.
She recalls when the AIDS epidemic really got going in the 90’s, those patients affected by the virus also formed part of the patients that the Knysna Hospice cared for, and that gave palliative care a great opportunity to showcase that it is not there only to help people who are suffering from terminal disease.
“Every two weeks we have a palliative care multidisciplinary meeting at the hospital to discuss patients who are often admitted as an emergency from the casualty department for palliative care needs. Once we get them on to our palliative care programme, we usually sort out their problems and the outcome is that those patients are managed at home and their frequent admissions to the casualty unit cease, which shows the impact we are making and the growth of palliative care” she added.
To conclude, Dr Janet remarked on how satisfying it is to see how people who can be in a place of fear and anxiety, after a while, because of palliative care intervention, become at ease and confident with their situation. “People learn how to manage their lives better and at the same time we learn so much from every patient that we encounter” she added.
Find out how you can get involved with Knysna Hospice here.