Green Party President Peter Sinkamba says the Ministry of Health should develop a multi-disciplinary protocol to guide end-of-life care in Government hospitals.
And Mr. Sinkamba says it is stripping the dignity of dead to keep their bodies in communal or side wards long after dying.
“Yes, it is important to save a life. But it is equally important to provide complete end-of-life care which includes helping the dying person manage mental and emotional distress during final moments,” Mr Sinkamba said.
He says there is need to develop a protocol which should guide physical, psychological, and even spiritual comfort to patients and relatives moments before and after breathing ceases. He adds that the protocol should provide guidance on complete end-of-life care which should also include helping other patients manage mental and emotional distress during the final moments of the deceased.
“In the last few months I have been to university teaching hospitals in Kitwe and Lusaka visiting patients. Regrettably, what I have noted is that whilst doctors and nurses put in their best to treat patients, they are critically let down by limited or even lack of resources to provide quality end-of-life-care,” he said.
“You see, in a hospital setting, it is common occurrence for patients to die in a shared room or communal ward. For some patients entering the final stages of their lives, the end of their journeys can be terrifying and distressing due to death rattle. The effect of witnessing death rattle has implications not only on the relatives of patients but fellow patients as well.
“It should be a policy of government hospitals to move patients near to death from communal wards or shared rooms to isolation rooms. This should be mandatory policy in government hospitals for a number of reasons. First, there is need to maintain privacy and dignity for the patient and her or his family during those final moments. Secondly, there is need to protect other patients from having to witness distressful deaths. Unfortunately, this is not happening due to lack of or limited resources. Government needs to seriously invest and guide in this aspect,” Mr. Sinkamba said.
“I have noted that if patients encounter a number of distressful deaths, this has a negative effect and they become depressed and withdrawn, perhaps feeling that ‘I the next one to go will be me’. They become withdrawn and unwilling to interact. They choose to distance themselves from their fellow patients. They become even more upset by witnessing the death of someone with whom they had developed a relationship. You worsen their agony by preparing the body for mortuary whilst they are watching. And to make matters worse by keeping the body in the communal ward for several hours or even until the next day. That should never happen at all as a matter of policy,” he said.