The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, says Nigeria is lagging behind in palliative care provision and advocated its inclusion as an essential component of the basic package of care.
Adewole said this at the opening of the 10th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference organised by the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Nigeria (HPCAN) in Umuahia on Wednesday.
He was represented by Dr Abali Chuku, the Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia.
He said that the ministry would encourage key stakeholders to ensure that palliative care is included as an essential component of the basic package of care.
“The ministry will ensure availability of affordable liquid morphine across the nation.”
“Elements of palliative care were included in the National Cancer Control Plan of the ministry (2008-2013) as well as the National Guidelines for HIV and AIDS treatment and care in adolescents and adults.”
The minister also gave an assurance that the ministry would invest in the development and enhancement of palliative care services in all areas.
He said that the ministry was poised to expand both out-patient and in-patient palliative care service capacity.
Adewole charged the conference to lay a solid foundation to address the unmet needs in palliative care training, practice and research, so as to ensure high quality palliative care in Nigeria.
According to him, 18 million people worldwide die annually of unnecessary pain and distress due to the lack of hospice and palliative care.
He said that at least 20 million people worldwide needed hospice and palliative care annually during illness and toward the end of their lives.
“With aging population and the rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases across the world, these figures are only increasing and yet the response is not keeping pace,” Adewole said.
In his speech, the National President of the association, Dr Samuel Otene, expressed delight that the body, which was established in 2007, had “grown by leaps and bounds”.
Otene said that the association was in dire need of funds to properly coordinate its members nationwide, in order to function effectively in providing palliative care in the country.
He urged all stakeholders, including federal and state ministries of health, religious bodies and the media, to support the association’s drive to achieve palliative care in Nigeria.
“We need to get all hands on deck. Hopefully, in the near future, palliative care will be fully covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme.”
Furthermore, he said that the association was also working hard to have palliative care included in the curriculum of medical training institutions.
In his address of welcome, the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, Dr Nnamdi Ojimadu, said that the theme of the conference was “Universal Health Coverage in Palliative Care’’.
Ojimadu said theme was chosen in consonance with the national concern for universal health coverage in Nigeria and an attempt to adopt it at all levels care.
Ojimadu expressed optimism that the scientific session of the conference would stimulate interest in research, generate knowledge and create avenue for learning.
Prof. Charles Adisa of Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba, presented the keynote address on the theme and sub-themes of conference.
Some of the sub-themes include “Palliative Care in a Resource Limited Environment; Palliative Care Human Rights and Ethical Issues; Pain Management: a Neglected Crux in Basic Health Management,” among others.
Adisa emphasised the need for people to take measures to ensure early detection and prevention of terminal ailments.