Palliative Care in Uganda
‘Our work in palliative care in Uganda developed as a result of the HIV epidemic, which wrought devastating effects in that area. Many cancers are among the AIDS-defining illnesses and the palliative care team brought holistic care to those affected. The following report describes the services that MMM provided before handing over Mobile Palliative Care to local staff in 2013.
‘In Uganda, we have a very active Palliative Care Team, made up of Sister-Doctor Carla Simmons along with nurses Rose, Resty and their driver, Aloysius. Nurses Rose and Resty are pictured here visiting the home of a patient with Kaposi’s sarcoma.
‘The Palliative Care Team is part of the home care unit, based at Masaka. It has a staff of twenty-two, including the staff who administer antiretroviral therapy.
‘The programme has more than 4,000 patients currently registered. Of these, 112 are in need of palliative care to relieve the severe symptoms of the advanced stages of disease.’
Sister Carla, pictured here with Nurse Rose, visiting another patient, said,
“We offer this service to our own patients in the AIDS Mobile Outreach Programme and also to patients with cancer referred from the hospital. While the purpose of our Mobile Outreach Programme is to care for people and families who have been struck with AIDS, you couldn’t have a service in an area as poor as this without it being available to anyone who needs it.”
“We are very fortunate in Uganda that morphine is available for treatment of severe pain. Because morphine is a classified drug, an opiate, a drug of addiction, there are very strict laws about its handling, use and prescription. In many African countries it is not even allowed to be imported. It is only since the growth of the hospice movement that the benefits of morphine in terminal illness have been appreciated fully.
“The beauty of the morphine we use is that it is oral, cheap, easy to take, and wonderful for pain relief, as everybody knows. It is also helpful in the control of severe diarrhoea that often accompanies terminal stages of AIDS. That gives tremendous relief not only to the patient but also to the family.”