Sunflower Children’s Hospice at National Hospital in Bloemfontein hosted a “Wear a hat to show you care day” for children with Palliative Care on 8 October. The aim was explained to be “raising awareness for children with life threating illnesses, one hat at a time”.
Joan Marston from the hospice said they started the hospice in 1998 and it is the longest existing children’s hospice in Africa. “Originally, to care for the many children dying of AIDS, but now for children with a variety of serious illnesses and disabilities.”
Marston explained that there are 300 children and families cared for in the community and 10 in Sunflower House with a variety of life-limiting conditions. She estimated that it costs R200 per child per day to keep a child in Sunflower House, and R600 a month when cared for by the community.
“In 2014, the International Children’s Palliative Care Network was able to raise awareness for at least 21 million children in the world who need palliative care,” she added.
According to Marston, there are estimated to be over one million children in the country with an illness or condition that would benefit from palliative care but only 5% of these children have access to these specialised care. “Palliative care is not just about caring for a child at the end of life. Children with some conditions are provided paediatric palliative care for years and, when they get older, they are helped to transition to adult palliative care,” she said.
“The aim of palliative care is to relieve the suffering of the child and family and help the child enjoy the best possible quality of life. To live as well as possible, as long as possible.”