Spiritual care practices in hospices in the Western cape, South Africa: the challenge of diversity

29 April 2021

Abstract Background South Africa is a very diverse middle-income country, still deeply divided by the legacy of its colonial and apartheid past. As part of a larger study, this article explored the experiences and views of representatives of hospices in the Western Cape province of South Africa on the provision of appropriate spiritual care, given local issues and constraints. Methods Two sets of focus group discussions, with 23 hospice participants, were conducted with 11 of the 12 Hospice Palliative Care Association registered hospices in the Western Cape, South Africa, to understand what spiritual care practices existed in their hospices against the backdrop of multifaceted diversities. The discussions were analysed using thematic analysis. Results Two prominent themes emerged: the challenges of providing relevant spiritual care services in a religiously, culturally, linguistically and racially diverse setting, and the organisational context impacting such a spiritual care service. Participants agreed that spiritual care is an important service and that it plays a significant role within the inter-disciplinary team. Participants recognised the need for spiritual care training and skills development, alongside the financial costs of employing dedicated spiritual care workers. In spite of the diversities and resource constraints, the approach of individual hospices to providing spiritual care remained robust. Discussion Given the diversities that are largely unique to South Africa, shaped essentially by past injustices, the hospices have to navigate considerable hurdles such as cultural differences, religious diversity, and language barriers to provide spiritual care services, within significant resource constraints. Conclusions While each of the hospices have established spiritual care services to varying degrees, there was an expressed need for training in spiritual care to develop a baseline guide that was bespoke to the complexities of the South African context. Part of this training needs to focus on the complexity of providing culturally appropriate services.