Hospice a beacon of hope

Khanyisile Nkosi

Khanyisile Nkosi

Most people, it seems, believe that a hospice centre is a place where terminally ill people are left to die.

While it cannot be argued that there has been cases of terminally ill patients who have departed during their stay at hospices, it has emerged that the centres have also become a beacon of hope to those who have been nursed back to health.

Sibongile Mafata, a nursing sister and coordinator at Soweto Hospice, says the centre has treated and discharged many patients whose health improved after being admitted at the centre.

"It is true that some families do not want hospices because of the perception that people who are admitted here are going to die. Yes, some patients come in very sick and die, but there are those that are admitted in very serious conditions who later improve and are discharged," says Mafata.

She adds: "We are here to make patients comfortable. We are not an ARV centre.

"In fact, we send patients to clinics and hospitals for ARVs, and when they come back we take care of them.

"If the patient's symptoms are acute, we transfer them to hospitals."

Mafata says the hospice in Soweto was introduced in the 1980s after a number of terminally ill patients who were cared for at the Houghton facility increased.

In 1998, hospice offices were set up at Mofolo Clinic, and Mafata and a colleague, who has since retired, started the home-based care facility.

The centre, which is a non-governmental organisation completely dependent on donations, has now moved to new premises in Diepkloof.

The centre can now take more patients than it did while at Mofolo clinic.

It boasts in-patient facilities which admit up to 16 adult patients and 10 children. The patients are accommodated at the day care centre where they spend the day doing beadwork and socialising with other patients.

The centre also provides patients daily with a balanced diet.

"We get new admissions every day. It's in and out, everyday,' says Mafata.

One of the challenges facing the centre, Mafata says, is lack of funding.

"We depend completely on donations for survival. Usually we ask for a donation of R50 from our patients when we admit them, but this does not mean that we turn them away if they do not have money. Everyone is welcome here," says Mafata.