Palliative care service providers decry limited medical supplies, financing

Mark Donald Mwesigwe, the Executive Director  of Palliative Care Association of Uganda handing over the medical sundries to the Hospice Units. Photo David Walugembe

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While receiving medical sundries from the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU) on Wednesday, July 10, representatives from hospice units in Hoima, Arua, Lweza, Jinja, Masaka, and Kabale districts emphasized the urgent need for more resources

Health workers across Uganda providing palliative care services have voiced concerns over limited medical supplies and funding, which they say is severely affecting their ability to attend to more patients.

While receiving medical sundries from the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU) on Wednesday, July 10, representatives from hospice units in Hoima, Arua, Lweza, Jinja, Masaka, and Kabale districts emphasized the urgent need for more resources. These sundries are essential for treating patients in need of palliative care.

“We lack basic medical supplies like diapers and colostomy bags, which should be available in hospitals. These items may seem simple, but they are often unavailable,” said Ms Rosemary Kiwanuka Musoke, Board Chairman of the Lweeza Community Health Program.

“Families are impoverished because the patients have been sick for a long time, draining their resources. They expect us to provide everything, including gloves, but we are constrained and rely on community well-wishers,” she added.

Ms Geraldine Tuhirirwe from Kabale Christian Care highlighted the need for more financial assistance to support transporting cancer patients for therapy. “We face challenges with the hilly terrain, making it difficult for our medical team to reach patients. We try to meet them in their areas, but it’s tough,” she explained.

Mr Germans Ntuhwera from Little Hospice, Hoima, said they can only treat 80 percent of the 300 patients they receive annually due to limited resources. “There are also issues with knowledge and information. People often mistake serious conditions for normal infections or attribute them to traditional beliefs. Many have died in churches due to misinformation,” he noted.

Ms Anna Maria Anabo from New Life Hospice Arua called on the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to continue supporting them through donations to meet patients’ needs in Arua.

The six hospice units, including Little Hospice Hoima, New Life Hospice Arua, Lweza Community Health Program, SD Cancer and Palliative Care Clinic Jinja, Kitovu Mobile, and Kabale Christian Care, received various medical supplies from PCAU as part of its 25th-anniversary commemorations.

The supplies included gloves, cotton and gauze, nasogastric drainage or feeding tubes, urinary catheters, and bags, torches with rechargeable batteries, diapers (for children and adults), colostomy bags, prosthetic breasts, reusable/waterproof aprons, and mackintosh sheets.


Statistics from the Ministry of Health in 2021 indicated that only 11 percent of the 500,000 people suffering from cancer and other illnesses needing palliative care receive it.

Speaking at the event, Mr Mark Donald Mwesigwe, the executive director of PCAU, appealed to the government to prioritize home care as an important aspect of healthcare. “We don’t just come to the hospital to get cured and leave. When someone is in need, even a little support is appreciated,” he said, urging the government to expand services to the 36 districts currently without palliative care.

Dr Bildad Baguma, executive director of Uganda Joint Medical Stores (JMS), urged the government to increase funding for the palliative care department in the health ministry by seven percent from the current Shs 2.5 billion.

Dr Martha Grace Ajulong from the Department of Pharmacy and Natural Medicines at the health ministry pledged government support towards the provision of palliative care services. “We have a 10-year health planning roadmap that aims to sustain funding for essential medicines and health supplies in this country," she said.