PatchSA, under the guidance of Dr Michelle Meiring is facilitating the development of a national paediatric palliative care strategy for South Africa. An initial strategic pre-planning session took place in Pretoria in May 2015. The founding alliance members are PatchSA, HPCA, ICPCN, Umduduzi, University of Pretoria, Wits Palliative Care, Rare Diseases South Africa and CHOC.

WHY do we need to develop a national palliative care strategy in South Africa?

Historically, nearly all palliative care services in South Africa have been provided by the NGO sector.

On the 23 May 2014, the World Health Assembly passed the first ever resolution to integrate hospice and palliative care services into national health services. This was a significant event as it confirmed the need for all WHO Member States to recognise that palliative care is an essential health service, and that it needs to be integrated national healthcare systems.

The key recommendations to WHO Member States from the resolution were to:

  • Develop, strengthen and implement palliative care policies
  • Support palliative care initiatives including education and training, quality improvement and availability of medicines essential for the provision of palliative care
  • Provide support to caregivers
  • Include palliative care as a part of integrated training for all healthcare workers who routinely work with people with serious illness
  • Ensure access to essential medications
  • Foster partnerships between government and civil society to increase access to palliative care
WHY do we need a separate national children’s palliative care policy?

Children are not small adults. They have different palliative care needs to adults. The basic principles of providing quality care and support are similar, but children also have developmental needs they need to be met. It is not just about managing their pain and distressing symptoms. It’s also about integrating their developmental needs into their care so as to ensure that they can have the best quality of life possible, regardless of the diagnosis and regardless of how long they will survive with their illness.

The National Children’s Palliative Care Alliance needs to work with directorates with paediatric and child health interests so that children’s palliative care can be integrated into our national healthcare system.