Dr Charles Olaro, the Director Curative Services in the Ministry of Health said even as there is a big number of people who need palliative care including those battling Cancer, TB, sickle cell anaemia, HIV and other painful illnesses, only 11 per cent of those that need this care get it.
More than 30 districts in the country still lack palliative care services.
This is despite Uganda being recognized globally for being the first country to
manufacture cheaply and use oral morphine to manage pain among people who
suffer from terminal illnesses.
Speaking during a meeting of palliative care providers, Dr Charles Olaro, the
Director Curative Services in the Ministry of Health said even as there is
a big number of people who need palliative care including those battling Cancer,
TB, sickle cell anaemia, HIV and other painful illnesses, only 11% of those
that need this care get it.
He said at the height of the lockdown in April to May, up to 50 per cent of those that
were initially accessing oral morphine couldn’t get it because of a breakdown
of services including transport.
Since 2004, the only pain-relieving drug that health workers have been
considering for palliative care has been oral morphine but Olaro says many new
medicines are being assessed to be included on the list of medicines for
palliative care to give people options.
However, while he says this, it should be noted that oral morphine is produced
at only one place in Uganda, at the NGO run Hospice Africa Uganda in
Dr Mark Donald Mwesiga, the Executive Director Palliative Care Association of
Uganda an entity that brings together facilities or hospice branches that offer
palliative care across the country, says palliative care services have been
largely left to private NGOs even as government unlike elsewhere has made
directives that increase access such as allowing nurses to dispense
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Mwesiga says although they have tried to extend pain relief services to over a hundred districts they often slow down due to lack of funds.
Dr Emmanuel Luyirika, who heads the Africa Palliative Care Association
says now is the time for the government to set aside some funds for palliative
care since some money which would have taken people abroad for care has been
saved with the lockdown on travel early in the year.
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Luyirika suggests a National Palliative Care Fund that can be set up by the
palliative care association in Uganda and have members make an annual
contribution to ensure that there are running funds to at least guarantee
constant availability of morphine.
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According to statistics by the Ministry of Health, 34 per cent of
all cancer patients diagnosed need palliative care.