Crossing borders for children's palliative care

In January a team from the ICPCN spent a week in Maseru, Lesotho , teaching children’s palliative care to a group of 26 health care professionals and chaplains/pastors from all regions of Lesotho. In collaboration with the Lesotho Ministry of Health ICPCN arranged for these students to cross into South Africa to experience children’s palliative and hospice care in action at Sunflower Children’s Hospice in Bloemfontein. In addition the doctors and pharmacists are also placed at Universitas and National District Hospital working with Prof Hanneke Brits and Dr Jan du Plessis.The placements include time with Sr Melinda Muller and members of the multi-disciplinary team in Sunflower House and participation in an IDT meeting, case study and ethics discussion; spending time with patients as they receive occupational and physiotherapy; observing the teacher stimulating the children who are able to enjoy class each morning; going out into the community with the Community Coordinator Olga Mohlaloe on home visits and experiencing the social challenges of many of the patients; learning about the importance of data capturing and reporting from Tshegofatso Taunyane and participating in a spiritual care and Chaplaincy meeting with Hanneke Lubbe.

Discussions include the various diagnoses that the children have, medicines that are prescribed for the children, the difficulties many have with feeding and maintaining good nutrition, the importance of ensuring each child feels loved and cared for and the need for safe care when the families are unable to take the child back into the home.

The programme is quite intense and so far two groups of nurses, doctors and medical technologists have been to Bloemfontein for their placements, with another two groups to be placed in June.

Students have expressed a wish to have a similar children’s hospice programme in Lesotho but realize that this could be challenging in such a poor country, with one of the highest incidences in the world of HIV. With LeBoHA, an NGO working with ICPCN in Lesotho, and the support of the Ministry of Health they plan to roll-out training across the Mountain Kingdom with support from ICPCN and mentorship from new-found friends and colleagues at Sunflower Children’s Hospice.