Palliative care

Paedspal patient Lunje Mdloyi and his mother, Nokubonga.

A Rondebosch-based palliative-care non-profit has launched a funding campaign as it grapples with the effects of the lockdown.

Paedspal provides paediatric palliative-care services to families in Cape Town free of charge. It is calling on 240 people to donate R250 a month to raise the R60 000 it needs each month to stay open.

Paedspal is a public-private-partnership programme that provides care and support for children living with life-threatening and life-limiting illnesses in the Western Cape.

The name is a play on words with the “pal” signifying both “palliative” and “friend”.

Paedspal was founded by Dr Michelle Meiring, a leading paediatric palliative-care specialist, who is now also the organisation’s chief executive officer.

Dr Meiring said their vision was to help children with life-limiting conditions to live as well as possible for as long as possible.

“Our mission is all about working alongside patients’ primary-treatment providers and their communities, to ensure the best quality of life for children with life-limiting conditions and optimal support for their families.”

But that, she said, had become a lot harder during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are finding ourselves needing to help with things that we don’t normally help with – like helping patients and families access food and other basic needs such as electricity to keep their child’s oxygen going. And while we do try help link patients up with government resources and other NGOs, this is neither quick nor easy,” said Dr Meiring.

“We are also finding we are needing to work longer and harder as we space clinic bookings out to enable social distancing. Life, in general, is more gruelling.

“On the other hand, we have seen the most incredible generosity and solidarity among people and have even seen barriers and bureaucracy being broken down.

We are incredibly grateful to some of our donors who have helped us to help our patients more by providing Covid19 related funding that has enabled us to assist with food provision and to run a Covid helpline.”

The sector had not seen any financial support during the pandemic and needed to raise money to cover operating costs such as rent, electricity, stationery, printing, transport and clinic and therapy consumables, she said.

“We feel like the ‘forgotten sector’ left behind on the front line as we are directly connected with some of the most vulnerable families.”

Paedspal runs an outpatient clinic for disadvantaged families around Cape Town and has a permanent palliative-care team based at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, staffed by doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers.

Additionally, Paedspal offers an outreach programme bringing its services to nine other hospitals and children’s homes in Cape Town, including Brooklyn Medical Chest, St Joseph’s Home, Groote Schuur, New Somerset and Victoria hospitals, as well as medical facilities in Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha, and home-based visits to patients living as far away as Atlantis.

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