Grantee details

Traveling Scholars Program Report

Anita Esenam Agbeko, MD

Travel date: August 16, 2016

Name of Meeting/Event/Activity: 5th International African Palliative Care Conference

Origin: Kumasi, Ghana / Destination: Kampala, Uganda

How was this meeting/activity helpful to you?

This meeting was a great opportunity to meet other practitioners who work in settings similar to mine and share how they have developed their palliative care services. Through the experiences shared, I am encouraged to continue in my efforts to establish palliative care in my hospital. I have learnt from the people I interacted with that no effort is too small and no challenge is too great to overcome. Some of the presentations shared strategies for effective advocacy and how to source for funding which I found very useful.

How will you new knowledge & acquired skills help in furthering your work in hospice and palliative care in your program/city/ or country?

I have learnt simple strategies to improve palliative care practice in my setting; 1) Meticulous documentation of every activity of my hospital palliative care team. This is evidence that will be very useful in lobbying my institutional management in supporting palliative care more than they do now. Moreover, this will be invaluable data for research and contributing to evidence based practice in my region. 2) Mentorship and how it can be carried out in various forms, even the most informal way. The daily interactions with other colleagues are a useful opportunity to teach about palliative care. 3) Strengthening collaboration between various palliative care teams in Ghana through regular contact to give us better visibility and acceptance in our country.

How IAHPC Traveling Scholars Program be improved in order to help other future traveling scholars?

It will be great if more individuals can be supported to travel to such conferences. The eligibility to reapply for a travel scholarship can be revised to 2yrs.

Narrative summary highlighting the needs and challanges you face

The palliative care team in Komfo Anokye Teaching hospital (KATH) has been in existence for about 3 years. Over this period, our major challenge has been our inability to meet the demand for palliative care in our hospital. This is because of the small team size in terms of numbers. Moreover, the team members are not assigned solely to the provision of palliative care services and must still perform other clinical duties for which they were originally employed. Also, team proficiency in providing spiritual, psychosocial and other specialized care is limited. In spite of these challenges, the team has persevered to maintain its presence in the hospital. We have created the awareness of our services in the hospital through some workshops and as a result palliative care referrals to the team have increased gradually. We have also been able to establish a weekly out-patient clinic that sees averagely 3 to 4 patients in a week. Moving forward, our aim is to increase awareness and understanding about palliative care among our colleagues so that palliative care is accepted as early as practicable in the care of every patient with serious/terminal illness in the hospital. The team needs to grow in number as well as expertise to improve on the services we offer. Most importantly we need our hospital management to commit more resources to training in palliative care to facilitate service provision at all levels of need. Being at the APCA 2016 conference was a good experience that offered some insights into how the palliative care service in my hospital can be improved. I learnt three great lessons. First, however small my team appeared, we had a great inherent potential to cause change. I learnt that the simple action of meticulous documentation of all our work could be a powerful tool to cause change. The data we generate would be evidence to convince our hospital management to invest more in the service. Moreover, publishing it (however small the platform) could draw potential collaborators who would support our development agenda. Although we were few, we could still train other people (even if it was one person at a time) and mentor them to provide palliative care through our daily interaction at work. Second, advocacy was an indispensible part of any palliative care service. Concentrating on the clinical care alone was not enough for our team growth. The advocacy had to go beyond medical circles to include the communities our hospital serves. Some of the conference attendants shared their experience of how such actions had led to significant fund raising and local policy change over time in their areas of practice. Third, national and regional collaboration provided the avenue to share best practices and provided a stronger platform for advocacy and initiating change.