Umodzi Children’s Palliative Care Team
- Palliative care for children and young people is an active and total approach to care, embracing physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements.
- It focuses on enhancement of quality of life for the child and support for the family and includes the management of distressing symptoms, provision of respite, and care throughout death and bereavement.
- Palliative care should begin when illness is diagnosed, and continue regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease.
- Effective palliative care requires a broad multidisciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources; it can be successfully implemented even if resources are limited.
- It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centres and even in children's homes.
Delivering palliative care is the duty of every paediatrician and all health providers must evaluate and alleviate a child’s physical, psychological, spiritual and social distress.
At QECH there is a specialist palliative care team for children called “Umodzi”. The offices are located near the old Moyo building, upstairs. The team consists of clinicians, nurses, a social worker, a chaplain and a play lady.
Umodzi’s vision is to provide access to quality palliative care services to all children in need. Umodzi was set up to offer a service to children with any chronic life-limiting or life-threatening condition, including cancer, neurological disorders, cardiac disease, and HIV/AIDS. We work to enhance quality of life for those children for whom recovery to full health is not likely. Umodzi acts to provide quality palliative care services to children and families from hospital to home and to train others to do so.
Best made by filling in a referral slip and delivering it to the team office, but can also be made in person to one of the team. Referrals can be made at any stage in the illness depending on the child‘s needs. Palliative care neither prolongs life, nor hastens death. Some patients make an unexpected recovery and are discharged from our service.
Do not wait until the last few days of life, nor until there is a definite diagnosis, to make a referral.
Whilst the Umodzi team can provide more detailed counselling and support, it is the duty of the medical team to explain the diagnosis and expected prognosis to the family, and to the patient themselves where appropriate.
Children often understand much more about their disease than we realise, and providing them with honest and open communication is an important factor in providing good palliative care.
We are able to provide the following categories of help:
- Symptom control for a range of problems including pain, breathlessness, nausea, vomiting and other distressing symptoms. Umodzi purchases some drugs which are not available from the pharmacy, and dispenses morphine.
- Discussions about the illness and plan of care with patients and families at the bedside and in the privacy of the Umodzi office.
- Teaching carers relevant nursing skills to enable them to care for their child at home.
- Facilities and supervision to play in the playroom near Moyo, and on the ward for those confined to bed.
- Small, discretionary grants of food or money are made to those with immediate financial difficulties.
- Liaison with rehabilitation services at QECH physiotherapy department. Provision of equipment such as CP chairs, wheelchairs or walking frames.
- Home visits for patients who are unable to return to the hospital but need ongoing help.
- Referral to other providers of palliative care on discharge, including teams at other hospital sites and community based organisations.