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Terminal illness policy on the way

NAIROBI, November 20 – The government will next month develop guidelines on how to care for people living with terminal illnesses.

Medical Services Assistant Minister Danson Mungatana said on Thursday that some patients are currently placed under care in various hospices that do not receive government assistance.

“Although we have developed some palliative care units at Kenyatta National Hospital, we now want to develop a formal policy so that those who are diagnosed as being terminally ill can be taken care of,” the Assistant Minister said.

Speaking at the opening of an international conference on palliative care, he promised that the ministry’s 2009-2013 strategic plan would include care for the terminally ill.

“Policy development is a process that takes a long time but we want to work with the hospices association to launch a taskforce this year so that we can work together towards developing the guidelines,” he said.

Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association chairman, Dr Bactrin Killingo said the conference – the first of its kind in the country – aims to address the needs of the terminally ill from a human rights aspect to improve their quality of life.

“There are a lot of people who go through terminal illnesses, experience extreme suffering. Right now the national health policy framework addresses more the preventive and curative issues but many diseases are incurable,” Dr Killingo said.

He added that a policy framework would ensure resource allocation – including personnel – to make it easier for those who require the care get it anywhere in the country.

“For example every year we have 35,000 new cancer cases. 80 percent of those will die between three to six months of diagnosis which is usually done late, largely because we don’t have a national cancer control program,” he added.

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Dr Killingo said such a program would assist in educating people on the prevention measures, early diagnosis and treatment.

Currently there are only eight hospices in the country, which Dr Killingo insisted are not enough.


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