Saturday, 5 February 2011

Palliative Care Conference

Palliative care is an essential component of cancer care. Pain and symptom control, coupled with counselling and spiritual care, enables patients to die with dignity, preventing a painful and distressing death.

Research has shown, however, that 79% of the global morphine supply is used by only 6 countries (USA, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and Britain). In Africa, there are also restrictions on the prescription of morphine because of fears about addiction. Without access to palliative care, most cancer patients in Africa die in considerable pain. 

At the end of January, AfrOx - in partnership with the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Ghana Health Service - ran a palliative care workshop at the Korle Bu teaching hospital in Accra. There were 111 participants, ranging from medical students to social workers, representing nine of Ghana's ten regions.

The workshop gave an overview of what work is currently being done in Ghana on palliative care, and introduced models of palliative care being used in other African countries, including Uganda, Egypt and Tanzania. Discussions ranged from practical issues - such as pain medication - to ethics; while role-plays helped participants to explore how best to communicate with patients.
Before the conference, participants wanted to find out more information about what their role (as doctor, nurse, pharmacist, social worker), was in delivering palliative care to terminally ill patients.  They wanted a greater understanding of treatment methods and drugs involved in palliative care, and to know how to identify pain in patients, especially when dealing with a child. We hope that the conference has armed them with the tools they need to start developing effective methods of palliative care in Ghana.

To find out more about our palliative care programme, click here.

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