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Palliative care is not a one man’s job

Author: Santana Githaiga
03 April 2017

This week’s continuous medical education (CME) session administered by Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui, director of programs at Kenya Hospices and Palliative care association (KEHPCA) found us at Coptic Mission Hospital in Nairobi. The CME session, which usually plays a great role in the sensitization of the public and health care professionals, was one to introduce what palliative care is to the clinicians at the hospital, a facility that is yet to integrate the service in the hospital.

This week’s continuous medical education (CME) session administered by Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui, director of programs at Kenya Hospices and Palliative care association (KEHPCA) found us at Coptic Mission Hospital in Nairobi. The CME session, which usually plays a great role in the sensitization of the public and health care professionals, was one to introduce what palliative care is to the clinicians at the hospital, a facility that is yet to integrate the service in the hospital.

Dr. Kinyanjui enthusiastically started off with an introduction of himself and the organization and then quickly proceeded with the session. One of the topics he sought to address was of terminologies and the unintended consequences that can arise when the wrong ones are used. “In palliative care, conditions should be referred as life threatening because there is always a possibility that it can cause death but also that it can be cured or a person’s life prolonged” stated Dr. Kinyanjui. This was opposed to using terminologies such as “Terminal” or “Life limiting” which often results in a thought that the patient’s life is over no matter the intervention. He emphasized what palliative care is just to remind those in the session that it is an approach that seeks to improve the quality of life of the patients and their families from the time of diagnosis. The quality of life should then always be based from the patient’s perspective, a fact some tend to forget. He urged the clinicians to remember that the patients should always be in the centre of all care, with their needs and goals always coming first .The health care workers perspective, shadowed by a natural bias that may come with being human should not be imposed to patients due to the impropriety it may result to if a patient is misunderstood from the failure of not asking the right questions.

As the CME continued, Dr. Kinyanjui touched base on issues relating to the need to do a full assessment so as to properly approach the patient holistically. “Yes, the patient may be having physical pain, but they may also be experiencing psychological, social and spiritual needs that have to be interpreted in a practical way” said Dr. Kinyanjui. How one communicates with the patients after a diagnosis is made will determine how one copes with the news which in actuality will determine how comfortable their lives will be. He also explained the common misconception people usually have when they hear the term palliative care and the immediate thought that it is care for cancer patients yet there are many other conditions that require palliative services. Palliative care can benefit a lot of patients, not just the ones that are in the last stages of their lives. As one can then assume, it is therefore not one man’s show, it requires a multidisciplinary approach in order for it to be comprehensive.

As the session concluded, Dr. Kinyanjui urged those in attendance to be advocates of palliative care and hoped that soon enough palliative care will be an essential component offered to the patients in Coptic hospital. “Palliative care is a prerogative of every patient. No one has to live or die in pain because we have the adequate measures to alleviate any kind a patient is suffering from.

So let’s all try to be champions of palliative care so as to move Kenya from the preliminary integration to the advanced integration phase and as we continue to work together with the stakeholders involved, we will be able to support our communities.

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