Department committed to improving quality of life of palliative care patients | Western Cape Government


Department committed to improving quality of life of palliative care patients

12 October 2023

Department committed to improving the quality of life of palliative care patients and families 

Palliative health care providers across the entire public health system  – from  central, tertiary, regional and district hospitals, to primary care and community level, provide appropriate treatments for palliative care patients and their families in the Western Cape. This quality care serves to provide pain control and effective symptom management to patients, as well as providing support to their families.

This approach to care for patients and families was emphasised at the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness event on 12 October 2023 to commemorate World Hospice and Palliative Care Day. The event, hosted by Groote Schuur Hospital, focused on the transitional journey from hospital to home.

Palliative care provides holistic care to patients (and their families) associated with a life-threatening or life-limiting illness, through the prevention and relief of pain and suffering. Palliative care interventions are based on the needs of each individual and as such, the management of symptoms and associated pain is refined by what is essential for the patient on a regular basis.

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, observed globally on 14 October, brings awareness to a core component of healthcare that is often neglected. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year 40 million people worldwide need palliative care, with only 14% receiving it. The department is committed to forming part of the solution by ensuring access to early palliative care, and bereavement support services by adequately capacitated staff to ensure holistic patient-centred care.

Historically, palliative care was solely a role performed by hospices and NGOs. However, in 2017 the National Department of Health issued the National Policy Framework and Strategy on Palliative Care which advocates for the integration of this crucial service into existing public healthcare services. In October 2018, the provincial Department of Health and Wellness launched palliative care and it has since continued the journey of integrating palliative care into the public health services.

With this year’s theme ‘Hospital to Home’, the emphasis is on the transitional journey that involves the transferal of the patient from a hospital or health facility to their home, while remaining on the same palliative care treatment. This type of care is essential in providing physical, psychosocial and spiritual support through a multi-disciplinary approach that involves palliative care professionals and community health care workers in providing an environment that is necessary for the patient. Ideally, patients with palliative care needs should be cared for by a multidisciplinary team near where they live. Every effort is being made by the department to develop the capacity in the primary health and community-based services to be trained and equipped to ensure that patients and their families receive quality care, support and are cared for.

“The integration of hospital to home is not a straightforward process for patients and families but it is essential. Providing palliative care across the public health system has come with challenges but our commitment, since 2018, has been to further the journey and it is a commitment we promise to uphold,” said Dr Saadiq Kariem, Chief of Operations at the Department.

“While palliative care asserts a patient-centric approach to healthcare that recognizes quality of life and appropriate care that supports life, grief, and loss, it also brings to the forefront the importance of appropriate physical, psychosocial, and spiritual support needed for treatment of palliative care patients, their support and their family members affected,” said Juanita Arendse, Chief Director of Emergency and Clinical Services Support at the Department.

A grateful family member, Mr Peters, who has made a good transition with his loved one from Groote Schuur Hospital to home had the following to say at today’s event:  "For us, while palliative care is associated with dying, it is not end of life as our experience proves. It is an important extension of healthcare from hospital to home and how we respond to facing a life-threatening illness together with the healthcare workers."

The department remains committed to progressively bringing awareness to palliative care and continues to build a healthcare system that recognises the need for palliative care at all levels of the healthcare system.