12 December 2021
History was made last week when a group of palliative care experts from the country met in Gauteng to start the process of developing National Guidelines on Palliative Care with the support of the National Department of Health.
For the first time in the history of the development of palliative care in South Africa the National Department of Health gathered a group of experts in both adult and children’s palliative care in Gauteng to start the process of creating palliative care guidance and guidelines for healthcare providers.
The 3-day long gathering, organised and funded by the National Department of Health and the World Health Organization South Africa, took place at the Airport Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Centre and was attended by a dedicated group of palliative care experts including doctors, nurses, social workers and counsellors representing members of a the multi-disciplinary team.
The aim of the meeting was to start the process of creating Draft Zero of Palliative Care Guidelines for adults and a Paediatric Palliative Care User Guide and was ably led by Lawrence Mandikiana, Deputy Director (Palliative Care) at the National Department of Health.
Attendees were welcomed on Day 1 by Dr Kibachio Mwangi, the Medical Advisor for Non Communicable Diseases and Mental Health at the WHO South African country office in Pretoria and by Sandhya Singh, Director Cluster: Non-Communicable Diseases, National Department of Health. Dr Kibachio Mwangi’s humorous depiction of palliative care doing everything in its power to catch up with the NCD’s and the Universal Healthcare Express brought a smile to everyone’s faces.
Despite the number of years of advocacy that has led to this moment, he encouraged all by reminding them of the ancient Chinese proverb “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
The process and timelines
The process for writing guidance and guidelines were covered by Dr Delene van Jaarsveld who emphasised the need to use evidence based research where this is possible.
On the second and third day of the writing retreat the paediatric palliative care group, under the guidance of Dr Michelle Meiring and Dr Julia Ambler, created a framework for what will become The South African Paediatric Palliative Care User Guide with sections that include:
- Section 1: General Principles of Paediatric Palliative Care
- Section 2: Common Symptoms approach
- Section 3: Specific Patient Conditions
The writers of the Paediatric User Guide are widely representative and an even broader group of experts in their own fields will be asked to review the Drafts as these are written.
A timeline for the writing of the guides was agreed upon and the aim will be to have both the adult palliative care guidelines and the paediatric user guide ready for publication in September of 2022.