Blog: Take A Deep Breath

29th August 2018

A few weeks on, and it is time to reflect on Cairdeas and the Makerere & Mulago Palliative Care Unit’s (MMPCU) 10thanniversary conference, ‘Building Momentum for Palliative Care’.

Dr Mhoira Leng opened the conference (day one, 9thAugust 2018), setting the scene by reflecting on the Lancet Commission Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief.  Dr Mhoira’s work, and that of her partners, directly responds to the crisis the Lancet Commission have highlighted: that at least 80% of those experiencing serious health-related suffering (SHS), live in low and middle-income countries where access to basic palliative care and pain relief is severely lacking or unavailable.

Professor Scott Murray, from the University of Edinburgh, was optimistic in his address; particularly in relation to what was being achieved in Uganda, saying: “Inspiration is like a deep breath and we should take a deep breath and prepare ourselves to show how Uganda is leading the way in palliative care.”  He recognised Cairdeas and MMPCU’s engagement in a multitude of activities such as research and the development of resources to support the delivery of the palliative care approach.

Palliative care as a basic human right was the subject of Dr Henry Ddungu’s input to the conference.  Dr. Ddungu spoke of the individual’s right to dignity, and how freedom from pain and access to sufficient and efficient pain medication is a basic human right.

The panel discussions that followed these inputs spoke of how partners are pursuing the highest standards of palliative care, aligning with best practice and, always, putting quality patient care at the centre of every piece of work.

The keynote address for the day - ‘Inspiring Hope’ - was delivered by guest of honour, Professor MR Rajagopal, who himself is the embodiment of hope.  “I believe that there will be more good in this room today than in most parts of the world,”he said in his opening remarks. He presented a ‘new normal’ for modern healthcare; one that goes beyond treating disease, one that tends to the physical, social and mental wellbeing of our community.  He spoke about those on the margins; neglected populations such as women, LGBT, those with difficult to treat diseases, and those with mental ill-health.  He spoke of the challenge and the responsibility to treat without discrimination, to afford everyone the same high quality healthcare.

A representative for Uganda’s Minister of Health, as part of a panel discussion, congratulated Cairdeas and MMPCU on the exceptional quality and impact of their work, and re-emphasised the Ministry’s commitment to work towards becoming a world leader in palliative care.

The afternoon session on education and training saw wide-ranging inputs from healthcare professionals presenting first hand case studies and research findings.  Professor Julia Downing, from MMPCU and the ICPCN (International Children’s Palliative Care Network) emphasised the pivotal role of nurses in palliative care and she described positive impacts of a capacity building / nurse training programme which started in 2015, funded by the Tropical Health Education Trust.  Nurse, doctor and student inputs all followed: Elizabeth Nabirye presented evaluation findings of a nurse-prescribing programme for morphine; Professor Harriet Mayanja looked back on the journey of palliative care training and degrees in Makerere University; and Dr Bogere Najib described the experiences and challenges of practicing palliative care as a resident.

An account of the Master of Medicine (MMed) training programme in Rwanda was given by Dr Jean Pierre Siboma.  This is one of the many partnerships that Cairdeas and MMPCU have developed globally, in order to develop capacity, learning and growth outside of Uganda.  This led onto Dr Margaret Tumwebase presenting an evaluation on the potential of e-learning for palliative care and described the array of tools available for e-learning.

Messages of support for the conference were received from around the world:

“Congratulations and continue the important clinical and capacity-building work you are doing! You inspired me to pursue a career in competent cross-cultural palliative care and I’m extremely grateful!” Dr Danny Low, USA

“Greetings to all my friends and a happy 10th anniversary! Congratulations on all your achievements over the years,which have transformed the lives for so many. What a privilege it has been to be part of such an amazing team and continue those relationships across countries. Look forward to future collaborations.” Dr Gurs Purewal, UK


NOTE: all of the presentations made at the conference will be available on the resources section of the Cairdeas website


Take A Deep Breath

Faculty gather for the conference

Take A Deep Breath

Day one conference running order

Take A Deep Breath

Vicky Opia inspiring us from Adjumani

Take A Deep Breath

Moment of prayer

Take A Deep Breath

Helen, patient's relative shares her experience

Take A Deep Breath

Messages of encouragement from across the world

Take A Deep Breath

Ministry of Health essential support; Drs Amone and Amandua