The first phase for the establishment of the first-ever palliative care centre for Namibia is set to cost N$7.5 million.
The centre, which will be established through the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN), will be located in Klein Windhoek and is expected to open its doors in mid-2023.
Rolf Hansen, CAN Chief Executive Officer, said the first phase involves the procuring, remodelling and expanding of the the existing property at 3 Jan Jonker Road.
The centre aims to complement the already existing support programmes offered by CAN for cancer patients in the country, and is focused on integrating with existing medical treatment programmes of both state and private cancer care.
Hansen told The Villager that Palliative Care Namibia is the final objective in CAN’s current 10-year strategic plan that concludes in 2025.
He said palliative care is a critical component of cancer care often lagging in low and middle income countries due to a lack of resources.
“Palliative care is not a new concept, however, it is lacking in low and medium countries like Namibia. Palliative care is not on the higher ranking of medical care because it is seen as the end of life,” he said.
He added that Namibia has some level of palliation, either by in-hospital care or home-based support.
“When having health insurance, sometimes benefits are depleted by the time it comes to stabilise the patient. For state hospitals, health care is struggling, so we usually find that the hospitals are getting full, and the family must take the patient home. Then the family does not necessarily know how to look after or handle the situation because it is emotionally draining,” Hansen explained.
To address this, Hansen said CAN felt it was the opportune time to establish a national palliative care centre.
Palliative care is specialised medical care for people living with a serious illness, such as cancer or heart failure.
Patients in palliative care may receive medical care for their symptoms, or palliative care, along with treatment intended to cure their serious illness.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) places emphasis on palliative care development.
According to WHO, each year an estimated 56.8 million people, including 25.7 million in the last year of life, are in need of palliative care.
WHO also says that worldwide only about 14% of people who need palliative care currently receive it.
Furthermore, a WHO survey relating to noncommunicable diseases conducted among 194 member states in 2019 found that funding for palliative care was available in 68% of countries and only 40% of countries reported that the services reached at least half of patients in need.
Meanwhile, the International Narcotics Control Board found that in 2018, 79% of the world’s population, mainly people in low- and middle-income countries, consumed only 13% of the total amount of morphine used for the management of pain and suffering, or one percent of the 388 tons of morphine manufactured worldwide.
Hansen stated that the new centre will benchmark with similar institutions in the Western Cape of South Africa, while specialisation in this field of study is already underway through the University of Cape Town’s Palliative Care Programme.
“Sowe can build the necessary skills and send Namibian doctors and nurses to South Africa to get the training to specialise,”he said.
He emphasised the need for a centre of excellence in palliative care training, a caring and homely environment where patients can either recover, stabilise or have a dignified end of life.
He also revealed that a Windhoek West unit is planned to open by the end of the year with expansion to the coast where the CAN Erongo Centre is operationalin Swakopmund is also planned.
Hansen concluded that said Palliative Care Namibia will collaborate with local Oncology Centres, treating doctors and hospitals to accommodate patients in need of palliative care services.