In January 2016 two of the trustees, Jacqui Bolton and Esther Walker, were able to visit The Shepherd’s Hospice. Jacqui combined this visit with her role as part of the Kings College Team who are based at The Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
This was an important visit coming at the end of a deeply traumatic time for Sierra Leone. The Ebola epidemic was thankfully almost over when we visited but restrictions still applied to movement and care of people and the effects of this dreadful time were palpable. We heard from staff about their experiences of responding in the Ebola crisis.
The Shepherd’s Hospice had helped establish testing and holding centres, provided education to local communities and the formation of a burial team. Sierra Leone lost 5% of its doctors to Ebola and 221 trained healthcare workers. It is still coming to terms with the impact of this disease. To this end we hoped our visit would provide some encouragement to Gabriel and his team.
It was also an important opportunity for us as Trustees of UKTFSH to assess the situation and the services that the current team can provide. No home visiting of the sick was allowed during the Ebola crisis and therefore the team continue to focus their efforts on running a clinic to identify patients with HIV/AIDS/TB, providing laboratory testing and helping people access treatment.
During our visit we worked alongside our nursing colleagues in the clinic and undertook a number of visits to local hospitals, facilitated by Jacqui’s links to the Kings team. This was an opportunity for Esther to demonstrate palliative care to the team and try to establish links with hospitals that might continue to refer to the team. More formal ‘classroom’ teaching was also undertaken, particularly focusing on pain assessment, management and the use of morphine.
We also visited the new site for the hospice in Macdonald village and were able to see work progressing. We met with the architect, builder and team to discuss the services they hope to provide and look at the facilities. It was enjoyable to be able to contribute some suggestions at this stage.
The Shepherd’s Hospice is at a crucial stage for the future development of services and we hope in the years to come to revisit and find a new hospice building providing palliative care services.