Strong national leadership from the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU) has helped raise awareness of the importance of palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a mention of the continued need for palliative care during a recent presidential address.
This week, the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, asked district health officers to handle issues concerning palliative care as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic. PCAU has also mobilized members to coordinate the palliative care response across the country. In a statement to the Coronavirus National Taskforce, the palliative care fraternity noted, “The integration of palliative care into the comprehensive response to COVID-19 is important. Palliative care providers have skills in psychosocial and spiritual support, symptom control, and communication, including support for goals of care discussions and end of life care. We can therefore offer skills as part of the national, regional, district and community response.” PCAU has pivoted its focus to ensuring the palliative care workforce can continue their essential services, as well as offer their skills as part of the response to the pandemic.
The national lockdown (which continues through May 6) is intended to stop the spread of the disease. It has also made it difficult for palliative care providers to reach their patients, most of whom are served in their homes. Movement has been restricted across the country, but PCAU is working with government officials to secure passes for some member organizations to continue their services – at least allowing transport of emergency cases to the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala. Mark Mwesiga, PCAU country director, also recorded a video for local hospices to share with the authorities in their area to advocate for movement by hospices. PCAU is also utilizing video conferencing technology to stay connected and to organize the palliative care fraternity in Uganda to share best practices, resources and coordinate advocacy efforts.
With support from their GPIC partner, Center for Hospice Care, PCAU is helping its member organizations secure personal protective equipment, sanitizer and soap for hospice and palliative care providers, and other necessary supplies. PCAU is committed to ensuring that hospice and palliative care organizations across the country are prepared and supported during this pandemic.