Palliative care is part of health care!
When a person reaches the end-of-life stage we look for ways of making that person’s journey as comfortable as possible. Palliative care provides such support.
Palliative care is neither euthanasia nor abandonment but part of health care. It is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.
In support of the World Health Assembly Resolution’s call to strengthen palliative care as a component of comprehensive care throughout the life course, South Africa through the National Department of Health has developed a National Policy Framework and Strategy for Palliative Care.
Through its person-centred health care approach and commitment, the Western Cape Department of Health has appointed a Palliative Care Task Team to ensure the implementation of the National Policy Framework and Strategy for Palliative Care.
While many people may see hospices and palliative care as a service for people who are dying, the Department sees it as an opportunity to enhance someone’s quality of life – irrespective of which life-stage they are. Part of the Task Team’s objective was to find ways of how palliative care can be integrated into clinics, Community Health Centres (CHC) and hospitals and strengthen home-based care to ensure it is accessible by anyone who needs palliative care.
The Task Team has created a twinning mechanisms for experienced services to advice and guide hospitals and CHCs to integrate palliative care services in Mitchell’s Plain and Helderberg and lessons learnt from these initiatives will be implemented across the province.
In the Western Cape palliative care is available at a number of hospitals as well as 16 hospices, nine of which have achieved five-star status with the Hospice Palliative Care Association. These hospices provide quality care in the home through palliative care nurses who are supported by social workers, doctors and spiritual counsellors. In addition, seven hospices have in-patient facilities for patients who need admission for symptom control. Hospice staff support the family to care for the patient and after the patient’s death, providing compassionate bereavement care.
Through integrating palliative care into its primary health platform, the service will:
- provide relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
- affirm life and regards dying as a normal process;
- neither hasten or postpone death;
- integrate the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
- offer a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
- offer a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement;
- use a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling;
- enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
- be applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.