By BONIFACE OKORO
The federal government has outlined plans to improve Palliative Care (PC) services in the country as necessitated by growing ageing population, increasing disease burden of cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who disclosed the plans in Umuahia during the 10th anniversary of Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Nigeria (HPCAN), said there was need to invest in developing palliative care services since it was critical to providing good and affordable care.
Members of HPCAN also used the opportunity to hold her Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference with the theme “Universal Health Coverage and Palliative Care.”
According to the World Health Organisation, palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their famileis facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness through prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spitritual.
To improve PC servises, the Minister, represented by the Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, Dr AbaliChuku, said federal government would “ensure availability of liquid morphine across the nation and encourage key stakeholders to ensure that palliative care is included as an essential component of the basic package of care.”
The FMOH, the Minister said, intends to enhance the quality of palliative care services, across different care settings; expand both outpatient and inpatient care service capacity; implement measures to enhance the affordability of palliative care services; ensure availabilityof affordable liquid morphine across the nation and “continue to work with community partners like HPCAN, as ambassadors of PC to promote public awareness about palliative care and end-of-life issues, with a view to improving the quality of PC.”
National President of HPCAN, Dr Samuel AnajaOtene, assured the Minister that the association was “always ready to work with the FMOH to champion its agenda towards palliative care in Nigeria.”
He identified funding as the biggest challenge facing HPCAN and canvassed for adequate budgetary allocations at all levels of government for her members to make the necessary impact.
Otene expressed hope that National Health Insurance Scheme would fully cover palliative care to make it affordable as most people who need the care fall within the bracket of people who could easily be overlooked.
Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, Dr NnamdiOjimadu, explained that the theme of the conference was chosen in consonance with the national concern on universal health coverage in Nigeria,
Ojimadu stressed that palliative care “is a needed and an essential health care service and a human right for adults and children living with and dying from, life-limiting conditions and should be a central component of any health care system and included within universal health coverage schemes.
He urged governments to take responsiblity for providing quality palliative care services for thei populations, and in particular, ensuring its affordability by the poorest and the disadvantaged.
Chairman of the occasion, Dr Augustine Mbanaso, enjoined HPCAN to combine palliative care with cutural and spiritual care and commended them for sustaining the service in Nigeria.
The Keynote Speaker, Prof. Charles AdeyinkaAdisa, a professor of Surgery/Surgical Oncologist of Abia State University Teaching Hospital, who spoke on “Universal Health Care: Its application to Palliative Care,” suggested that there should be more focus on prevention as the poorest population often face the highest health risk