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 one of its kind starting with bringing country health leaders together for the Ministers Session. In this session while it was apparent that many countries are facing challenges especially in the implementation of the World Health Assembly (WHA) Palliative Care Resolution, strategies on how to start implementing were shared. It was very beneficial to me as Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health was also represented, making it easier for follow up when back home. The experience shared by Uganda as well as the strategies being used on implementing WHA palliative care resolution was very useful. The travelling scholar attended the workshop on Strategic Advocacy for palliative care sharing lessons from the field of health and human rights where she facilitated the small group session. In this session the group discussed on what needs to be achieved, how to get there and who needs to be targeted. The travelling scholar gained skills on advocacy in terms of working within a big tent, including voices of people who are affected and working with patients and families as change agents. A great opportunity to network and exchange of up to date knowledge, new and innovative ideas, research and experiences with other participants as well as meeting prospective donors. It was a wonderful conference with lots of new ideas for the betterment of palliative care. There is a lot of inspiration from what others are doing and achieving in palliative care service delivery which pushes one to follow suit. During the presentation which was attended by about 70 participants, the travelling scholar received input on how the palliative care program for adolescents can be improved. Useful materials such as Paediatric Palliative Care Guidelines and Practical Handbook of Children’s Palliative Care were collected from the conference which are needed in the implementation palliative care for children. There was a lot of networking and catching up with old colleagues and friends. The traveling scholar had an opportunity to meet with her two tutors from UK who taught, guided and mentored her during Palliative Care Diploma course bringing back memories after 14 years. The atmosphere at the conference was one of togetherness.
The skills acquired will help to take palliative care forward and furthering the work of palliative care in the country by influencing the implementation of WHA palliative care resolution. While the government has the public health responsibility the partnership is useful if we are to go far. Being able to engage donors by actually using their own language and interest at any given time. The strategies of using beneficiaries of palliative care as change agents is key as they bring credibility into the issues relating to palliative care. The travelling scholar will use the skills to involve everyone taking into account some of the language that hinder the palliative care conversation.
IAHPC is doing a wonderful job in supporting people to attend various activities that would add value to palliative care. Having been a recipient of the Travel Scholarship, the criteria of support after three years is good as it gives others a chance to be supported. Perhaps create more awareness as many may not be aware of this excellent support.
In Zimbabwe the challenges include lack of awareness on palliative care as well as where to access palliative care; noting that palliative care is a public health issue that needs to be connected to the bigger universal health agenda. The general public is still holding to the very initial definition of palliative care and thinks it is for people who are at the terminal stage, dying and taking their last breath. While availability of palliative care medicines is a challenge especially morphine for pain management, prescribers are limited to doctors and clinical officers only. Many a times there is erratic supply with ongoing stock outs. This on its own is a challenge as many patients are not able to then access morphine when required. In addition, lower levels of the health system are managed by nurses. The majority of patients do not get the services they require. Training and education in palliative care is still lagging behind at all levels of health care. Hence palliative care services are provided by a few who are trained. From the conference lessons, the travelling scholar will engage with various sectors to create awareness on palliative care and including key partnerships and alliances. Use of media has already started with two live shows conducted since returning from the APCA Conference talking on palliative care, pain management and World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2016. The team from Zimbabwe that attended the conference included Ministry of Health and Child Care and Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe representatives and these will be included in the advocacy group. It would be great achievements to convince Ministry of Health and Child Care to change prescription legislation and allow nurse prescribers for easy access to pain control medication for the patients and their families. Zimbabwe has the following tools in place; Palliative Care Policy, National Palliative Care Curriculum and a Training Manual and together with the WHA Palliative Care Resolution can be used for skills building and awareness creation. Discussion on the development of a National Palliative Care Strategy had started, however with the lessons from the conference, team approach will be used to ensure its completion.