Travel date: August 16, 2016
Name of Meeting/Event/Activity: 5th International African Palliative Care Conference
Origin: Harare, Zimbabwe / Destination: Kampala, Uganda
The conference was a great opportunity for me to learn from experts and to network with people from different parts of the world; who offer and those who have benefitted from palliative care services. The conference brought to me clarity on the of the World Health Assembly resolution to integrate hospice and palliative care into national health services. Although I have been working in a palliative care setting for over five years and have attained a Diploma in Palliative care, following the conference, I now feel more confident and well equipped to advocate for integration of services to ensure that all those in need have access.
Zimbabwe has noted an increase in the number of cancer cases in both children and adults; late presentations at health facilities among infants and children at risk of HIV infection, poor drug adherence among adolescents and young people on ART resulting in poor ART outcomes among other issues. The conference provided opportunities for learning and understanding innovations in palliative care which my organization can adapt to the needs of the Zimbabwean context. Zimbabwe is a low resource setting and so integration of palliative care would be beneficial to patients and cost effective compared to establishing new palliative care units.
The IAHPC Traveling scholarship is valuable but can perhaps consider covering accommodation costs as well.
Through our work with patients and families who have been confronted by life threatening illnesses, there are various challenges which affect the quality of care which we provide. These have been compounded by the unstable economy of the country at large and the disintegration of traditional support systems. There are few resources eg essential medicines and equipment which patients need might need. Patients struggle to access health facilities; either because they have no transport or they cannot afford specialist services. Most families are living in poverty and so they struggle to get a meal for the day. These challenges may be addressed through advocacy and efforts may be put towards mobilization of local resources. There is need to strengthen networks and to form consortiums whereby various service providers can collaborate and pool together resources for the benefit of those in need. Religious and cultural beliefs also hinder care efforts. These often result in patients defaulting or there may be incidences of drug interference. In Order to address some of these issues, there is need to continue educating, patients, families, carers and communities. Health workers, religious leaders and volunteers need to continually receive palliative care information and education. Survivors can also share their experiences and testify how they will have benefitted from palliative care. It is important to always involve the patients and their communities when planning, implementing and evaluating services. This will to a large extent ensure relevance and possibly minimize any sense of dissatisfaction with care.