Introduction and aim Palliative care services have started springing up in some tertiary health institutions in Nigeria in recent time. University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital is one of these institutions. This paper presents our experience over a period of 20 months, and highlight the challenges of providing palliative care in a hospital primarily set up to provide curative and preventive healthcare services.
Methods The case notes of all the patients seen by the palliative care unit over a period of 20 months, (May 2009 to December 2010), were reviewed. Data collected include demographic characteristics, sources of referral, reason for referral, primary diagnosis, patients' symptoms and interventions provided.
Results A total of 113 patients, (84 females and 29 males), with various forms malignancies were seen during the study period. The age ranged between 18 and 90 years with a mean of 63.7 years. The commonest form of malignancy was cancer of the breast, which occurred in 54 (47.8%) patients followed by colorectal carcinoma 11 (9.7%). Pain was the commonest (77%) indication for referral to the unit. Interventions provided included pain and symptom control, psychotherapy, counselling, spiritual support, home care and Bereavement support. The overall mortality for the period of the study was 39.8%. Major challenges include financial constraints, high patient drop-out rates due to inability to pay care costs, inadequate awareness of service and lack of vehicle for home visit.
Conclusion The palliative care unit of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital has made significant impact on the lives of patients and their families suffering from various forms of malignancies. Though relatively new, the unit has a great potential for growth.
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