Friday, September 29, 2006

south africa (2)

Following on the last post I attended the 4th multidisciplinary palliative care conference in Pretoria. This is organised and masterminded by Noreen Napper and I was part of an international speaker group that included Dr Robert Twycross and Dr Anne Merriman. You can see our photo. It was great to meet colleagues from across South Africa as well as further afield. The programme was busy and varied and included many excellent speakers form South Africa. It is good to put palliative care in an African context. The first service began inZimbabwe in 1979 with spread to South Africa, Kenya and Uganda in the 1980's and 90's. Now there is growing awareness of the need for palliative care and services are developing in other countries such as Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and others... Still however, few countries have good (or any) access to oral morphine and the challenge and tragedy of HIV/AIDS remains so difficult. Perhaps nowhere is this more clear than in South Africa which now has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world. Their recent figures show that many more people re dying in their 20's, 30's and 40's than in older life. This will becime even more of a social problem as time goes on and presents an urgent challenge to the country. In 2005 the African Palliative Care Association was formed to support palliative care accross this great continent and I am looking forward to visiting their offices in Uganda today!! More about that in another post.

south africa (1)

Hi everyone - after a long pause. I am back in Africa and loving being here. As ever I have had major problems with computer access so was only able to add a post today!! I will tell you a bit about the past few weeks over the next postings.
I arrived in Johannesberg on the 14th September. Initially I was working with Dr Natalya Dinat and the Wits palliative Care team. They provide an academic base within the Witswatersrand University and a clinical service within Soweto. They are a fantastic team and it was great to see them again. I hope to add a photo soon. I addressed the grand round medical meeting and attended a seminar arranged as part of World Hospice Day (7th Oct). Dr Robert Twycross was the main speaker and it attract a wide audience including the Dean of the University and senior politicians. Let us hope it will help in raising awareness of palliative care and the need for service provision and training. This year saw the first medical students complete their palliative care curriculum at Wits, with excellent feedback. In particular the students explored areas of personal coping, emotional and spiritual distress as well as the more physical problems. Much of this work was presented in portfolios that were innovative, creative and moving to read. One student read a poem she had wrtiien inspired by her patient entiltled 'Death be Defied' - I will try and add a quote later. I took part in the 2nd Wits palliative care day which was a fun and busy day as the students worked with case scemarios and simulated patients to explore palliative care issues.

Africa is an amazing place as I am discovering each visit. I hope to share some of my impressions with you in future posts but let me quote from Archbishop Tutu, who is a great supporter of palliative care and recently celebrated his 75th birthday. 'We are made for goodness, we are made for love, we are made for laughter, we are made for joy, we are made for transcendance' Here is an African sunrise to inspire you.