Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Anne Merriman Hospice Africa Foundation launched

By Esther Nakkazi

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Professor Dr. Anne Merriman's efforts to improve palliative care for Africans are starting to pay off. She is also an advocate of a good death, which is a basic human right.

While in 1993 only three African countries had palliative care now 35 have support care and 20 have affordable oral morphine based on Merriman’s formula which she developed in 1980. Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU) the model she founded for Africa is also producing enough oral liquid morphine for all in need in Uganda, with the support of the Ugandan government.

Since its founding, Hospice Africa Uganda has cared for more than 27,000 patients. It currently provides family centred care for up to 2,000 patients across its three centres in Kampala, Mbarara and Hoima. 

 “An Africa where Palliative Care reaches whoever needs it is a very big vision. This vision can only be achieved if impeccable clinical services, like the ones offered at Hospice Africa Uganda, are spread all over the continent and are integrated into the health service delivery system of every country, said Dr. Eddie Mwebesa, the Chief Executive Director of HAU.

Also recognising the shortage of morphine prescribing doctors,  Merriman’s work has changed the law in Uganda to allow specially trained nurses to also prescribe morphine. 

So Uganda is the only country in the world where nurses can prescribe morphine, hence it was in 2015 ranked by the Economist, Quality of death Index as the second country in Africa (35th worldwide) for the highest quality of death.

It is estimated that 50 percent of people in Africa will not access a health worker in their lifetime, and less than 5 percent reach chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

On Wednesday, 17 August the Anne Merriman Hospice Africa Foundation was launched in Kampala by Dr. Jane Aceng,  the Uganda minister of health during the 5th International African Palliative Care Association Conference. 

“Every human being on the planet no matter their colour, creed or social background should expect a pain free, peaceful, end of life. Unfortunately in Africa this is not the case for most," said Merriman.

"I have worked with dedicated teams for the last 23 years to change this and now that I am 81-years-of age, our loyal supporters and I, want to ensure that this work continues, until the vision is a reality. Together we have achieved a lot - but so much more needs to be done.”

She appealed to world leaders and policy makers to take note and to do all in their power to ensure that people in Africa experience a good death. “We need strong and powerful advocates to support this cause.”

“We are here because we want to move the ethos of care: compassionate, team oriented, and patient centred, forward together. It's for this purpose that the Anne Merriman Hospice Africa Foundation will thrive in its vision," said Mrs Shelley Enarson, a founding advisor to the Foundation, at the launch.

"The AMHA Foundation will promote the spirit of keeping the patient at the center of our care, and ensuring that the ethos of organisational partnerships are encouraged” said Dr. Mwebesa.


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