Minister Mbombo commemorates the lives lost during covid-19
World Palliative Care Day
The significance of this year’s commemorated World Palliative Care Day highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected families and claimed patients’ lives who were receiving Palliative Care support.
In respect and honour of those who lost their lives or loved ones during COVID-19, the Western Cape Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo together with community members and healthcare professionals gathered together to memorialise the “Lost Butterflies” by lighting a candle in their honour and offering a minute of silence as a sign of respect at the Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital Conference Centre in Mitchells Plain on Thursday 15 October.
Palliative Care is much more than only "end of life care". It is an interdisciplinary team approach that improves the quality of life of patients both adults and children and their families facing the problems associated with a life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering through early identification, assessment and treatment of pain and other problems be it physical, psychosocial or spiritual.
The Western Cape Government Health Palliative Care position statement and plan for the COVID-19 response to palliative care patients who are COVID-19 negative, who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and those diagnosed patients that will require palliative care has been implemented to improve the quality of life of patients with terminal illnesses.
“The Department is committed to compassionate dignified care from the beginning to the end. Following the principles of universal health coverage, this implies that all citizens have access to promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care and in-so-doing ensuring the human right to health,” says Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.
“The National Policy Framework and Strategy for Palliative Care was launched in the Western Cape in October 2018. This policy advocate for the integration of palliative care into the public health system within the existing resources and governance responsibilities,” says Dr Jennie Morgan, Palliative Care Champion and Family Physician at the Gugulethu Community Health Centre.
“Since the launch of this strategy, 133 professionals have since been trained in palliative care. This has helped to prepare for the palliative care burden that comes with COVID-19,” says Dr Morgan.
“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, each in-patient facility has ensured the provision of bed accommodation commensurate to the patient’s needs. These will include COVID-19 palliative care beds with the appropriate resources, COVID-19 end of life beds, available emotional and spiritual care, including bereavement counselling and adequately equipped human resources,” says Dr Morgan.
The Department’s healthcare professionals have been providing palliative care services in the hospital and via home-based care to a few patients who are unable to attend their healthcare facility due to their health condition.
Peter Titus shares his palliative care experience
Mr Peter Titus (78) from Westridge in Mitchells Plain has been receiving home-based care since May 2020 after contracting COVID-19 which has left him bedridden and short of breath. With the assistance of an oxygen machine, Mr Titus slowly gathered his breath to share his story.
“I felt sick and could not breathe easily and experienced dizzy spells. My family took me to the Mitchells Plain Day hospital where they transferred me to the Mitchells Plain District Hospital and after tests were done they confirmed I had COVID-19,” says Mr Titus with concern.
“I stayed in the hospital for a few weeks and was not getting any better. I don’t have any comorbidities. The hospital transferred me to the Hospital of Hope at the Cape Town Convention Centre in May where I was treated with kindness, received counselling and video called my family,” says Mr Titus.
“The staff and team of doctors took good care of me and monitored me regularly. There were on occasions patients who did not survive and every time I heard the metal wheels making loud sounds in the passageway, I was concerned that I was next,” says Mr Titus anxiously.
Mr Titus was discharged from the Hospital of Hope in June 2020 and survived COVID-19 but his breathing was affected, and he is unable to move out of his bed unassisted. He receives care at home by his live-in carer and weekly visits by the Community Health Workers.
Mr Titus is happy to be at home and is surrounded by people who care for him including healthcare providers who formed a bond with him during his stay at the Hospital of Hope. Mr Titus continues to receive palliative care treatment to ensure the best quality of life.
“Many patients and families were affected by COVID-19 and many lost their lives to the virus and during the pandemic which caused so much pain and anxiety in the home. On behalf of the Department, we offer our condolences and prayers to all affected by COVID-19 and to those suffering with life-threating illnesses who are living in challenging times. We salute our “Lost Butterflies” and will always remember their lives and their legacies”, says Minister Mbombo with heartfelt condolences to all Western Cape families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.