Hospices and organizations offering palliative care services in Uganda submitted a written statement to the Chairperson to the Coronavirus National Taskforce, Rt. Hon Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the Prime Minister of Uganda. The statement makes recommendations on ensuring essential health services and psychosocial support for the vulnerable, who included people with palliative care needs and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement emphasizes the importance integrating Palliative Care into the comprehensive response to COVID-19. It notes that the spread of the virus causes panic and fear which palliative care teams have a vast amount of experience with. It is paramount that palliative care teams are included to ensure that COVID-19 patients receive holistic care, including end of life and bereavement support it becomes necessary.
Some of the recommendations highlighted in the statement included:
- Protection for all health workers including Palliative Care providers in both public and private health settings who continue to offer services during the pandemic period.
- Inclusion of the Palliative Care specialty in the response to COVID-19, a life-threatening illness causing death in a brief period of illness especially among those with other underlying health conditions.
- Supporting patients with Palliative Care needs in health facilities and in homes including those at end of life should be everyone’s obligation during this time of COVID-19.
- Development of special guidelines for home care services by the Ministry of Health to ensure that patients are not abandoned entirely, especially at end of life.
- Further clarifications and effort on transport guidelines put in place by the government for essential services to cater for Patients from upcountry and staff in hospice and Palliative Care organizations upcountry.
- Need for improved and increased messaging and communication by the government to address the concerns around COVID-19 and the psychosocial wellbeing of the populations.
Most of these recommendations were considered and palliative care has been included and prioritized in the continuity of care as we respond to COVID-19.
As a result, the President of the Republic of Uganda has acknowledged the need and directed that issues concerning delivery of palliative care services be handled by District Health Officers to reduce challenges of travel permits for patients and their families seeking medical care.