Photo Credit: Diocese of Botswana
By Bellah Zulu, ACNS
A hospice manager has revealed that a culture of not accepting death as an natural process is preventing people in Botswana getting palliative care.
Ms Pearl Ncube, the manager of the Anglican-owned Holy Cross Hospice, told ACNS that the culture of not accepting death continues to be a challenge to caring for those with life-threatening illnesses.
"Providing palliative care in Botswana is difficult because we have a culture of not accepting death," she said, "and this has sometimes made it difficult for us to attend to some patients."
She added, "People should have dignity even in death."
Death a normal process
Ms Ncube also expressed frustration that some potential backers of the hospice declined to fund its work because they did not want to be associated with death. "People need to understand that death is a normal process just like birth," she said.
Ms Ncube was speaking to ACNS as the Church there prepares to celebrate the hospice’s 20th anniversary on August 30.
The Diocese of Botswana in the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) has been running the hospice for the past twenty years for terminally ill patients mainly from the underprivileged neighbourhoods in the country.
“Our existence and various changes as a hospice have affected the people of Botswana in a positive way,” she said. “The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS related illness in the country has made our existence even more relevant.”
A need to diversify
However, the hospice is determined do more than just care for terminally ill patients. “We want to be a facility that gives people information on cancer and other such diseases while giving a full spectrum of care,” said the hospice manager.
The absence of adequate training facilities in palliative care for the country’s medical professional has also prompted the hospice to consider expanding into a palliative care training facility.
“The reason we want to extend our services into training is because we want to become a satellite for health workers by offering training in palliative care as well,” said Ms Pearl.
She added: “We have also acquired a bigger plot in the outskirts of Gaborone, and we pray and hope that in next five years, we will be able to establish an additional and bigger inpatient wing.”
A need to expand across the country
“We see the need to expand our services to other towns following the high number of referrals we keep getting from distant cities and towns. In a country where we are seeing an increase in the number of HIV/AIDS and cancer-related illness, we only have three hospices,” she revealed.
A success story
Ms Ncube was happy about forthcoming anniversary celebrations and explained that the fact that the hospice is still operating after two decades is a success in itself.
“We have managed to survive all those years, despite limited resources, through the use of dedicated professional volunteers. We have seen tough times including the credit crunch but we have still survived.”
She added that both the Anglican Church and the country should celebrate that such a facility existed for the benefit of the people of Botswana.
Ms Ncube challenged everyone to learn more about palliative care, and asked other Anglican Churches around the continent to considering helping the terminally ill. “Churches could establish new facilities or even help those that that already exist,” she said.