Lukas Radbruch (EAPC liaison officer for collaboration with APCA, incoming chair of the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care) is in Johannesburg reporting on the 4th Congress of the African Palliative Care Association
It is not that long ago that we had been so very happy to have the Czech Minister of Health opening the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) congress in Prague. Support from political decision-makers is so important for sustainable implementation of palliative care.
Now imagine having not one, but four ministers or deputy ministers of health participating in a palliative care congress! I am sitting in the first plenary of the 4th Congress of the African Palliative Care Association (APCA), held in conjunction with the Hospice and Palliative Care Association (HPCA) of South Africa in Johannesburg from 17th to 20th of September. Yesterday evening the deputy ministers of health of South Africa and Malawi and the ministers of health of Kenya and Uganda participated in the congress opening, after having signed a consensus statement that palliative care has to be integrated in mainstream health care in the African countries.
In the plenary, Liz Gwyther, CEO of HPCA, board member of APCA and congress chair, together with Emmanuel Luyirika, CEO of APCA, described the developments and achievements in South Africa, culminating in the most recent successful application for a 50 million USD grant from USAID and other co-funders, with the main objective of mainstreaming comprehensive care and support (palliative care), for example by including it in all national health care policies. USAID funding has also helped with the accreditation process for South African hospices, which are now rated with one to five stars according to a set of quality indicators.
These are milestones that very few (if any) of the European countries have managed to achieve. It does seem that there are a few things that we can learn from the African experience!
But what impresses me even more, is the dedication and focus on patients that is evident in every single speaker, and every participant, during the discussions. Whether it is access to essential medicines or assessment of palliative care needs in patients with tuberculosis, it is always the individual patient, the story behind the data, that motivates the participants to keep up their work in spite of scare resources, barriers in the health care system or in the attitudes of patients, families and other health care professionals.
The congress theme is ‘The net effect – spanning diseases, crossing borders’. It is this net effect (what is in it on the ground for the individual patient) that I can feel throughout the conference, and which makes it worthwhile for me to participate.
To find out more…
- Click here for more information about the conference.
- African Association for Palliative Care (APCA)
- Hospice and Palliative Care Association (HPCA) of South Africa.