Health News Fri, 13 Nov 2009

Palliative care is human right for terminally ill - Panellists

From: Audrey Dekalu, GNA Special Correspondent, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, Nov. 13, GNA - Palliative Care (PC) is to relieve suffering, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, and to promote quality of life for the terminally ill. Unfortunately this is absent from the health agendas of most countries especially in Africa, speakers at the Seventh African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) in Dar es Salaam observed on Thursday.

The African Palliative Care Association (APCA) defines PC as the right of all life-limited and life-threatened patients and their families from the time of diagnosis. This should continue alongside any curative treatment of the disease, through death and into bereavement.

Its main purpose is to relieve suffering, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, and to promote quality of life.

The speakers at who spoke on Palliative Care for Cancer in Africa admitted that creating an enabling environment for the terminally ill did not take away their pain, but helped ease it to the barest minimum. They therefore challenged African countries to make it a health priority, especially with the emergence of cancer as a major health problem in middle and low income countries, where 70 per cent all cancer deaths are expected to occur.

AORTIC is an African-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to the promotion of cancer control, diagnosis, treatment and palliation in Africa.

Over 700 delegates from Anglophone and Francophone countries in Africa are attending the conference.

The conference on the theme, "Cancer in Africa-The New Reality", is expected to provide invaluable tools to stem the tide of the pandemic with key terms that address the full cancer control continuum including cancer treatment, research and capacity building.

The conference would also highlight the important roles of advocacy, prevention including tobacco control, supportive care and palliative care in the fight against the pandemic.

Professor B. Kouassi, a board member of the African Palliative Care Association (APCA), said APCA's mission was to promote and support affordable and culturally appropriate palliative care throughout Africa and that PC can work in Africa if there is political will. He called for awareness raising, advocacy strategies and funds to sustain PC activities, saying that, Cote d'Ivoire had had a policy on PC since 2005 through the HIV and AIDS Control Programme, and had given hope to the terminally ill because they now had access to PC through community and home-based care.

Dr. Jim Cleary of the US Carborne Cancer Centre said, a coordinated effort would be the right step to help achieve PC in Africa, and noted resources for cancer should be divided into three to cover prevention, treatment and care.

In an Interview with the Ghana News Agency, Ms Martha Adjapong, a PC nurse of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, said a survey she authored in Ghana revealed that PC was not necessarily dependent on the existence of specialist care services, but rather implies the mobilization of services and recognition of priorities within a healthcare system. She said because PC sought to reduce client pain as much as possible and maximize available resources, it helped to reduce the demand for hospital care, adding that PC in the local Ghanaian communities were feasible.

PC, she said, had been incorporated in the curriculum of the nurses training institutions and that the association was having workshops to help put in place a draft policy document for Ghana to improve the quality care and bring comfort to those in pain. 13 Nov. 09

Source: GNA