Hope at last for chronic diseases patients

IRENE SEME

MASERU – Many family members suffer with their loved ones in homes while giving care and treatment for chronic conditions such as cancer. However, with the launch of Starlight Oasis of Hope Hospice (SOHH) this week, all the stress will soon be eased from family members who are taking care for their loved ones without the support of professional health workers. SOHH will be the first-ever hospice to operate in the country and will provide an inpatient unit where patients’ pain and other distressing symptoms will be managed. It will also provide a day care facility for simple nursing treatments, social support and life skills empowerment.

The hospice will also have community palliative care team members that will visit patients in their own homes to provide ongoing support to patients and their families. In an interview with Public Eye, the founder of SOHH ’Malichaba Lepheane said the hospice will holistically attend to the individuals and families experiencing life limiting illnesses such as cancer and others. Lepheane said she is excited to have the first-ever hospice in Lesotho and that there will be staff training and development for health and social care professionals.

Narrating what triggered the thought of a hospice care centre, Lepheane said having lost both her parents in tragic circumstances of sudden death, she went through a soul searching journey and transforming which made her appreciate the value of time. “Nothing can ever prepare you for the loss of your loved one, but with sudden loss the pain becomes on another level. In a chronic condition you have time to prepare and make things better to improve the experience and quality of life for both the patients and their families and palliative care does exactly that,” she explained.

Lepheane further noted that it is for this reason that she is passionate about using the time at hand to ensure that patients and their families are not exposed to unnecessary distress and suffering when the hospice could be there to provide adequate pain killers, counselling, spiritual support and wheelchairs where necessary. She said: “Many families go through a lot of suffering and are pushed into poverty if the bread winner becomes ill due to cancer. They lose income and sometimes children miss school as there would be no funds for their fees.”

“I have a dream about the Kingdom of Lesotho where patients with life limiting illnesses and individuals suffering with cancer would have sufficient pain medication, and have their symptoms well managed, where one can be referred to social welfare for grants with just one click. “Truly, one does not need to be a well-known figure in order to receive stronger pain killers in any of our hospitals. We need a working system where we can deliver patient-centred care.”

Lepheane also said although palliative care practitioners need to be qualified, due to limited numbers of people with such expertise, there is ongoing decentralisation of knowledge sharing to empower health care professionals with basics of palliative care. She added that currently, preparations for training health care professionals in 2023 are underway and SOHH will deliver that training face-to-face.

She went on to say SOHH will have various job opportunities and will contribute in reducing high unemployment rates and will have both full-time and part-time employees, as well as a good reserve of volunteers. SOHH is a legally registered non-profit organisation in the Lesotho and in the United Kingdom where it is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Speaking at the launch, Limpho Mohale, a young lady who survived cancer at the age of five, said most people do not know about cancer while some think cancer is a death sentence. She added: “I feel if I do not stand for youth no one will. I have to stand for my fellow youth as the future generation to empower them to learn about cancer.” Addressing those in attendance, Minister of Health Semano Sekatle said it is the first time that a Mosotho has launched a centre for communicable diseases and the government is grateful.

Sekatle said the hospice will be very beneficial to all Basotho as it will ease the heavy numbers of patients in hospitals. Patron of the hospice, Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso, said over the past year Lesotho has experienced the growing burden of cancer which pulls a strain on our already stretched budget and resources for health services. She said there’s need for promotion of health equity and access to palliative and hospice care.

“Access to life-saving cancer diagnosis, treatment and care needs to be equitable and accessible to all, regardless of where one lives, one’s level of income, ethnicity or gender,” said Queen ’Masenate. She said the launch of SOHH fully gives hope to turn around the battle against cancer. She expressed gratitude to the founder of SOHH and the British community for supporting her towards establishing the hospice while working abroad.

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