More than a million children are dying from – or living with – incurable conditions, sometimes in great pain.  The state has a duty to protect children from suffering, especially the hidden suffering of seriously ill children.

Although South Africa can boast a comprehensive palliative care policy, it has  not yet been implemented. This means that very ill children are suffering unnecessarily  with their families in great distress.

In May 2016, the Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, appointed a 12-member steering committee to develop a palliative care policy. The policy was approved by the National Health Council in April 2017 and by 2018, an implementation plan had been proposed. The strategic framework included :

  • Specialist palliative care teams in all major tertiary hospitals and large district hospitals.
  • Access to Palliative care beds in hospices, sub-acute facilities and some hospitals.
  • The Essential Medicines List to include up-to-date palliative care medications and to make them available to all patients who need them.
  • Palliative care training for all health-care officials, including doctors, nurses, allied health care practitioners, pharmacists, social workers and clergy.

A budget for the implementation of the plan was created but not approved or allocated. In an attempt to move things forward, the Children’s Task Team, a sub-group of the Minister of Health’s Steering Committee on Palliative Care, with PatchSA (the national paediatric palliative care network), has convened a High Level National Stakeholders’ Meeting to explore how to implement the policy in an affordable and effective way. The meeting is taking place on the 18th of March 2019 in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

Key stakeholders in children’s health and welfare in government and the NGO sector have been invited to the meeting.

“We have shown that palliative care is cost-effective,” says Dr Michelle Meiring, chairperson of PatchSA. “With the proper support, patients can be cared for at home and in the community. Proper palliative care improves patient’s quality of life, can decrease unnecessary readmissions and helps families cope.  It can assist in avoiding costly futile treatment and also has positive spin offs for the health system in that it can improve health professionals capacity to cope and also has been shown to decrease litigation through improved communication.

“It has been shown internationally that the money saved through better palliative care and advanced care planning can be used to fund palliative care teams.”

For further information please email Nicky GunnClark at  or contact her on 082 898 8561