A new app, which was launched today, will bring access to palliative and emotional support directly into the homes of ordinary South Africans. The app “WeCare” has been developed by the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA), and draws on the association’s three decades of work across all nine provinces.
Hospices’ mission is to promote quality in life, dignity in death and support in bereavement for all living with a life-threatening illness – which includes COVID-19. This entails providing medical care, psychosocial care, and spiritual support, as well as end-of-life support.
The app, explains Dr Ewa Skowronska, CEO of the HPCA, makes their services more accessible to South Africans in a time when it is needed more than ever before. “Hospice provides more than just end-of-life services. Our emotional, social and spiritual counselling work also supports the government’s COVID-19 relief efforts now.”
The app will allow South Africans to virtually, and directly, connect with hospices. The support will also include information on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention methods and how to deal with mental health challenges such as anxiety during isolation and social distancing. The app is available on the app store under the name WeCare or at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.za.arcticedgeapps.hpca.
“HPCA and its 103 member hospices in all nine provinces have been at the forefront of community-based health care for three decades and are well placed to support the government’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19, which they have been doing from the beginning of this pandemic,” says Skowronska.
“Hospices are helping with screening, testing, isolation, quarantining, referrals and psychosocial support for COVID patients. Many hospices have converted their spaces to isolation and quarantine units to help the government’s efforts to accommodate the increasing number of patients needing these services.”
“The care provided by our hospices is needed more than ever at this time and we want to make this care even more accessible,” says Skowronska.
The app also provides guidelines for anyone who wants to ensure their affairs are in order and that they have pro-actively communicated their wishes for their care in the event that they might be unable to.
Hospice patients include some of the most vulnerable populations in South Africa and those most at risk from the novel coronavirus, including the elderly and patients with underlying chronic or serious illness. Approximately 50% of patients supported by hospices live with HIV/AIDS, 25% with chronic diseases and 25% with cancer and/or TB. A remarkable 97% of hospices services are provided in patients’ homes.
Hospices are continuing to provide care and support for non-COVID patients. Ms Nola George, the Assistant Manager at Zululand Hospice, reports that, the hospice’s “clinical team continues to go out daily into the community, bravely doing their everyday work under circumstances that are anything but every day”.
“Our team is continuing to provide home based palliative care to our patients in towns and rural communities as well as InPatient’s Units (IPUs). We have increased our infection control measures both in the IPU’s and out in the field by screening our staff daily and doing in-service training regarding COVID-19 specific infection control, symptoms, and government updates which is then passed on by our staff to the communities they serve.”
“The unique skills and strengths that are found in palliative care and provided by our member hospices are especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Skowronska.
“Indeed, palliative care and hospices’ expertise has never been more relevant and important than now. COVID-19 is highlighting that palliative care services that emphasise humanity and ensure dignity should be integrated into the health care system and available to all.”
“Now our app can bring the essential services that hospices provide into people’s homes virtually as well.”
The WeCare app was developed by the HPCA in collaboration with the mobile app development company, Arctic Edge Digital. Through this app, the HPCA also hopes to expand awareness of palliative care.
Those who want to support hospices or find out more about their services can do so by visiting https://hpca.co.za.
Hospices’ mission is to promote quality in life, dignity in death and support in bereavement for all living with a life-threatening illness – which includes COVID-19. This entails providing medical care, psychosocial care, and spiritual support, as well as end-of-life support. Each hospice has a multidisciplinary health care team that includes a medical doctor, professional nurse, social worker and home-based carers. All hospice staff are trained in palliative care which aims to ensure a good quality of life for patients who have been diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses and to prevent and relieve unnecessary suffering. Care also extends to families, especially after their loved ones have died and as they process their grief.
Hospices provide holistic care to people affected by life-threatening diseases, regardless of whether they can afford to pay for this or not. To date only 18% of patients who need palliative care are able to access these services.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Lynne Rippenaar-Moses Leigh Meinert
Wrap it Up PR & Communications Advocacy Manager
Cell: +27 73 534 5560 Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA)
E-mail: Lynne@wrapstrat.co.za Cell: 082 408 4523