Government Commits To Bridge Gaps On Universal Palliative Care

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has committed to enhance the quality of palliative care services in the country by ensuring full implementation of the Palliative Care Policy 2021. Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha said that with appropriate policies and guidelines in place, the quality of palliative care services for individuals with chronic, lifelong, and life-threatening illnesses would be improved. Nakhumicha made the remarks during the official opening ceremony of the 6th National Palliative Care Conference held in Kisumu County on Thursday. In a speech read on her behalf by Dr. Mary Nyangasi, Head of the National Cancer Control Programme at MoH, the CS underscored the need to entrench palliative care in the primary health care system. 'My Ministry is keen to transforming the palliative care sector by incorporating it within the universal health care agenda and providing policy support to streamline the sector,' she assured. The CS advocated for equitable and inclusive palliative care that ensu res that all Kenyans irrespective of their health profile, location, and economic status receive the care and support they need. Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that Kenya is among the countries with a growing burden of non-communicable diseases. Contrarily, these patients often face late diagnosis and treatment making palliative care an essential component of the healthcare system. Annually, an estimated 56.8 million people remain in need of palliative care, of whom a disproportionate number 78 percent live in low- and middle-income countries. However, only 12 percent have their needs met. In Kenya, over 800,000 people need this care every year. Unfortunately, only 14,552 are accessing these services. Access to palliative care is even more limited among children, with less than 5 percent of pediatric patients having access to the care. 'These conditions often warrant long-term care, and treatment is sometimes complex, affecting the quality of life of the patients, leaving the f amilies poor and in dire need of support,' stated the CS. Kisumu Governor, Prof Anyang' Nyong'o in his remarks, appealed to all the County Governments to increase their funding for palliative care services. Nyong'o who was represented at the event by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Mathews Owili, emphasized that the allocation of adequate resources for the sector would boost the employment of healthcare professionals trained in palliative care to spearhead palliative care initiatives. He challenged the hospice and palliative care services stakeholders to develop solutions that would enhance a compassionate and comprehensive palliative care industry. Kisumu Deputy Governor, Dr. Mathews Owili (R), who represented Governor, Prof Anyang' Nyong'o at the 6th National Palliative Care Conference held in Kisumu County on Thursday. He was joined by the Chairman of the Kenya Hospice and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA), Prof. John Weru. 'We must adapt, innovate, and embrace a holistic approach to healthcare that leave s no one behind,' Prof. Nyong'o who previously served as a Minister for Medical Services stated. The Chairman of the Kenya Hospice and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA), Prof. John Weru advocated for public sensitization on the professional and holistic palliative care approach in offering care and comfort to people with serious illnesses. 'Palliative Care is not only provided in the hospitals but it encompasses a team led by the patient, family members, spiritual leaders, the community, nutritionists, and other stakeholders,' noted Prof. Weru who is also a Pain and Palliative Care specialist at the Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi. National Cancer Institute - Kenya (NCI-K) CEO, Dr. Elias Melly reiterated that Kenyans diagnosed with cancer and other chronic illnesses are entitled to palliative care. Dr. Melly noted that cancer care consumes the largest percentage of palliative care services in Kenya. Out of 174 patients with terminal illnesses seen at the outpatient clinics, 156 of them translating to 90 pe rcent were diagnosed with cancer. 'Every individual, regardless of the circumstance deserves to live a life of dignity and comfort even at the times of advanced illness. Quality health care is not a privilege but a right for all as enshrined in the constitution,' he assured. The NCI-K, Dr. Melly added, has initiated a partnership with county governments to establish clear plans for eradicating cancer in their jurisdictions. He noted that the government through the Institute has committed for the first time to allocate funds for cancer research set to be rolled out in December this year. The initiative seeks to issue grants to researchers to establish how technology can be embedded in cancer treatment. Source: Kenya News Agency

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