In Uganda, due to increasing life expectancy cancer is becoming increasingly prevalent. Almost 100,000 cancer patients need urgent access to basic pain control. Additionally 60,000 die from Aids related illnesses each year. Yet there is only one doctor for 50,000 people, one cancer centre and one trained oncologist. Less than 5% of cancer patients can access any chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Survival rates are poor and patients often present in the late stage of their illness. Due to this lack of medical services, extreme poverty and poor education, tumours can disfigure, rupture and cause unimaginable pain. Palliative care is a key intervention for patients to address their symptoms
57% of people in Uganda do not access a health worker but now they can access palliative care through our growing countrywide network of trained community volunteers. These volunteers identify those who need our care when critically ill or at the end of life. The volunteers provide some basic care and work closely with district health workers we have trained in palliative care.
Care is provided mainly in people’s own homes and at roadside clinics. Using a model first introduced for controlling pain at childbirth, specially trained nurses can prescribe morphine. They also support patients in self administration of pain control. The care is specialized and time consuming in order to provide freedom from pain and give impeccable relief for all symptoms. HAU also provides counseling and spiritual support to the patient and family.
Spreading the care:
Our three hospices provide not just palliative care but also leadership and there are now five other free standing Hospices and District teams. Another 1500 patients get pain relief from medical staff trained by hospice Uganda.
We estimate that a further 20,000 may be looked after by those we have trained and are working in health facilities and other Hospices in Uganda. Those professionals we have trained at HAU are working now in 82 of our 112 Districts. They are followed up and given further training in conjunction with Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU).