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15 Health Professionals Graduate in Master’s Program in Palliative Care; First Batch in Sub-Saharan Africa

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By Ivan Kaahwa

Fifteen health professionals from the Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care in Africa have successfully graduated from Makerere University, completing their two-year Master’s program in Palliative Care. This marks the inaugural batch of graduates in the program within sub-Saharan Africa. The Irish Ambassador to Uganda, Kevin Colgan, encouraged them to apply the acquired knowledge to support their communities.The Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care in Africa has officially registered the first batch of students who recently graduated from their two-year Master’s program in Palliative Care. The 15 accomplished health professionals, hailing from Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania, pursued their studies at Makerere University, pioneering enrollees in the program within sub-Saharan Africa. The programs feature a harmonious blend of online and in-person learning. Notably, four graduates work at Hospice Africa Uganda: Germans Natuhwera, the Site Programme Manager at HAU Hoima, Dr. Dorothy Olet, the Academic Programmes Coordinator at the Institute, and two palliative care nurses, Roselight Katusabe and Octavia Nazziwa.During the graduation ceremony, Irish Ambassador to Uganda, Kevin Colgan, urged the graduates to apply their knowledge in the field of palliative care.

Since the initiation of palliative care learning programs in 2003, over 100 doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals at various levels have undergone training. Dr. Anne Merriman, the founder of the Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care 30 years ago, expressed her belief that this milestone will significantly contribute to expanding palliative care services across Africa. Dr. Merriman devised the formula for oral liquid morphine produced on-site at Hospice Africa Uganda and distributed free to palliative patients nationwide through the Uganda National Drug Authority (NDA).

Dr. Nasur Buyinza, the Academic Registrar at the Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care, congratulated the students on their success, describing the graduation as a landmark day in the journey to integrate palliative care into all health systems in Africa. He emphasized that Hospice Africa Uganda is a center of excellence for palliative care training and service delivery, serving as a model for the rest of Africa. He underscored the importance of the Master’s program, especially in providing research and evidence around palliative care.

The Institute already offers a three-year Bachelor’s program in Palliative Care, a one-year Diploma, and various other short courses. Dr. Rose Kiwanuka, the first Palliative nurse in Uganda, appealed to the Ministry of Health to provide more support for the provision of palliative care to those in need.Hospice Africa Uganda, recognized as a center of excellence for palliative care training and service delivery, serves as a model for the rest of Africa.

The Master’s program fills a crucial gap by providing research and evidence in the field of palliative care.Palliative care aims to improve the end of life for seriously ill patients while administering oral liquid morphine for pain management.

Annually, 57 million people worldwide need palliative care, but only 14 percent of those in need can access it. In Africa alone, the cancer burden is expected to double in the next two decades. The number of districts in Uganda providing palliative care has risen from 32 in 2009 to 107 in 2022.

@IvanKaahwa via Twitter #IvanKaahwaReports

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