Hospice founder reveals good news for terminally ill Basotho


Palliative care is specialised medical care for people living with a serious illness focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family (carers). Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient’s prognosis. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment. Public Eye reporter IRENE SEME (PE) engaged Starlight Oasis of Hope Hospice founder and member, ’MALICHABA TEBELLO LEPHEANE (MTL) to break it down and explain what kind of care this is and how it can benefit patients living with serious illnesses.

PE: What is Palliative care?

MTL: Palliative care is a specialised care rendered to individuals with life limiting and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. This care focuses on the person holistically, that is, taking care of their physical, spiritual, psychological and social needs.

PE: Does a person have to be a qualified medical practitioner to be a palliative care giver?

MTL: Yes, one needs to be qualified in order to become a palliative care practitioner. However, due to limited numbers of people with such expertise, there is ongoing decentralisation of knowledge sharing to empower health care professionals with basic of palliative care.

The knowledge is also shared with community health workers and families so that quality care can be given to individuals experiencing health challenges such as those with cancer, kidney failure, etc.

PE: Are there different forms of Palliative care and, if so, what are they?

MTL: We have hospital-based palliative care and community-based palliative care.

PE:  Please explain each form of Palliative care?

MTL: Hospital-based palliative care is rendered to patients within the boundaries of acute (tertiary) care setting, while the patients are admitted in the wards or while attending the out-patient clinics.

On the other hand, community-based palliative care takes on the care of the patients once they are back in the communities to ensure they are supported in their own homes or in the hospice. Bear in mind a home is anywhere the patient will be residing which can be either a nursing home, old age home, hospice, etc.

PE: The second Saturday of October each year marks the commemoration of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (WHPC) and this year the commemoration is tomorrow, October 9. Can you explain the relationship between hospice care and palliative care?

MTL: It has been the second Saturday of October, but starting from this year onwards the date is now fixed on October 9 every year, saying that, next year it will be on Sunday the October 9, 2022.

There’s a great relationship between palliative and hospice care since they both focus on supporting the patients and their loved ones throughout the disease journey.

However, I wish to mention that palliative care commences from the time the patient is diagnosed with cancer, and continues during cancer treatment (managing complex issues around pain and other cancer-related symptoms) and throughout the disease journey.

The research shows that there are better outcomes if palliative care is commenced very early in the disease journey. This care continues to a point that the patient recovers and becomes a cancer survivor. In the unfortunate circumstance where the patient continues to suffer and becomes unwell then hospice care steps in and promotes supportive care to the patient and their families.

PE: Cancer is one of those illnesses which are categorised as life limiting, and tomorrow is the commemoration of WHPC, what would you suggest regarding how, as a country, Lesotho should commemorate this day to create awareness on chronic illnesses?

MTL: As a collective, with a well-known spirit of oneness for (Kopano ke Matla, Bana ba Thari), I wish to humbly appeal to us all to continue to take personal and collective responsibilities to take all precautions to seek medical intervention should we suspect anything untoward in our bodies.

Early interventions increase chances of good outcomes.

This year’s theme is ‘Leave No One Behind’, which really is an appeal to nations of the world to devise health care plans and strategies which will ensure palliative care is accessible to all individuals – rich or poor, young or old – in all districts, including ‘hard-to-reach areas’ as per Universal Health Coverage initiative.

This theme is a reminder to us all that improving health service coverage and health outcomes depends on availability, accessibility and capacity of health care workers to deliver quality, people-centred integrated care.

We as a nation need to consolidate our plans to make pain medications easily accessible to patients who suffer from cancer as well as supporting the patients and their families holistically.

PE: In light of this year’s theme, and with Lesotho categorised as one of the countries that struggle to offer treatment and care to cancer patients having to depend on South Africa and India mostly for treatment, what kind of support do you think should be given to struggling countries like ours to be able to offer treatment to its nation?

MTL: As a nation, it would be helpful if we are able to treat our own here at home as they will be closer to their loved ones where they can be supported well.

We would welcome the support from regional as well as international communities to assist our Kingdom with resources to overcome the palliative and hospice challenges experienced by our beloved citizens.

The technical assistance is also greatly appreciated. We just need to work collaboratively and swiftly to implement measures that will enable us to take care of our patients locally.

Q: As a Mosotho national living in a foreign country, do you see Lesotho reaching a point where it can have its own oncologists as well as hospice and palliative caregivers soon?

MTL: Absolutely, the journey has already begun and we are excited with the plans and efforts that our country is doing through the Ministry of Health. Many Basotho in the diaspora are very willing to plough back their skills in their homeland.

My humble appeal would be to welcome such support without seeing it as a threat. Basotho are living in many parts of the world where they have built relationships and through such interactions, they are able to bring along services from their friends, business partners and colleagues.

As Starlight Oasis of Hope Hospice, we have a team of British colleagues and friends who are willing to invest their knowledge in empowering Basotho health care professionals to confidently deliver quality palliative and hospice care.

Q: As a founder and member of Starlight Oasis of Hope Hospice, could you please share what triggered you to start this association?

MTL: I felt the need in my heart since 10 years ago but I was very scared by the vision. However, about four years ago I was divinely given a strategy of how to go about this vision. With all humility, respect and great appreciation I had great support from my family and close friends and I made a move to register the organisation Starlight Palliative Care Services (SPCS) in 2017, which gave birth to Starlight Oasis of Hope Hospice (SOHH).

We are very grateful to our trustees across the two Kingdoms (United Kingdom and Kingdom of Lesotho) who are working tirelessly to ensure systems and policies are in place. We are also encouraged by the support and pledges we received from different individuals, organisations, government ministries, financial institutions, religious organisations, just to name a few.

PE: How does SOHH operate?

MTL: We are mandated to deliver palliative and hospice care, while we are putting things in place and raising funds we have been delivering information using different platforms. We continue to raise awareness and advocate for cancer patients within the country, regionally as well as internationally. Our services are anchored on four pillars:

  • Advocacy
  • Education and training
  • Care and support
  • Treatment

PE: How can one contact and reach Starlight and members in Lesotho?

MTL: We shall inform the members of the public when we are all set up to offer the services. We are working with the authorities to comply with the logistics to enable us to start the building.

PE: Is there any kind of support that the association gets from the Ministry of Health?

MTL: We are an official stakeholder and we work closely with the Ministry of Health in palliative and hospice initiatives and we are putting the paperwork in place at the moment.

PE: How would you like to see Starlight in the near future?

MTL: Our great ambition is to see SOHH being able to deliver quality services to every Mosotho who needs our services, ensure patients and families are well supported, pain well managed, and their hopes revived so they can look forward to tomorrow. Being able to deliver training to empower the front liners in a way that will enable them to sensitively deliver quality care, will also definitely be a fantastic achievement for us.

PE: What encouragement can you give to people who are individually taking care of cancer patients or patients with any kind of chronic illnesses?

MTL: I really want to honour them as I understand the responsibility and indeed challenges that go hand–in-hand with caring, especially for your loved one.

I would encourage families to take turns as caring is not easy and takes a lot of one’s emotions and sometimes people suffer compassion fatigue and they need a little support from other members of the families, friends and neighbours where possible.

One last advice would be to really listen to the patient’s preferences and priorities as they are the only experts of their bodies and feelings. It is paramount that we listen well to what patients want and support them accordingly.

For anyone who wishes to get in touch with us seeking more information or want to lend support please you can email us on starlightpcs17@gmail.com


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