CIDERU Representatives at Palliative Care Conference in Uganda
Staff from the Cancer and Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Research Unit (CIDERU) within the Multinational Lung Cancer Control Programme at UKZN participated in the 7th International African Palliative Care Conference in Uganda.
Filled with enthusiasm, the team did well to contribute to topical discussions held at the plenary meeting.
Those who presented their work were Quality of Life Officer Ms Phindile Mlaba; Cancer Support Group Coordinator Mr Nkosinathi Mncwabe; Cancer Registration and Surveillance Officer Ms Nolutando Mbeje; Patient Navigation Officer Ms Buhle Lubuzo; Palliative Care Officer Ms Mpho Motlana; nurse Ms Simphiwe Khumalo, Monitoring, Evaluation and Data Officer Ms Thandekile Khumalo, and CANSA-MLCCP Coordinator and Social Worker Ms Sthabile Mtolo.
The event was co-hosted by the African Palliative Care Association (APCA) and the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, and sponsored by the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, the International Children’s Palliative Care Network, Global Partners in Care, and Palliative Care in Humanitarian Aid Situation Emergencies.
This year’s theme was Palliative Care in a Pandemic with the theme driving discussions on the African continent’s current state of palliative care support. Participants heard about the experiences of clinical staff in healthcare facilities and patients over the past two years.
Said Mncwabe:‘The conference could not have come at a better time being held in the wake of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. So, I think the conference was necessary as it exposed the gaps in palliative care. The highlights gave us an indication of where different countries are in the area of palliative care. The best part was learning how we can use this amazing knowledge back in South Africa.’
Delegates gave insights on related topics, including assessing the risks of emerging infectious diseases in Africa and beyond.
There was consensus on the need to decolonise palliative care as it was felt it had become very Westernised, and ‘out of place’ when looking at the political situations, social conditions, culture, and economic circumstances in the African context. The conference agreed that this set of circumstances demanded a different perspective when planning and implementing palliative care with an African frame of reference.
Participants left with an understanding that creativity and preparedness are required to ensure that, regardless of what happens, services and systems must exist for all patients regardless of age, gender, geographic location, or socioeconomic status. Nonetheless, patients should continue to receive comprehensive palliative care support.
Said Mlaba: ‘Something I learned from the conference, which I thought was very important, was the changing of the narrative about palliative care. At the moment, the dominant narrative about palliative care is about death and dying. We have to change the narrative to life and living because the negative narrative contributes to unfavourable attitudes towards palliative care. Consequently, this leads to patients having negative attitudes towards being referred for palliative care services. There would be a different feel to it if we promote the narrative of life and living, which in turn would feed the growth of palliative care participation.’
Words: Ziphezinhle Silindile Sibisi