24 February 2013: Last week was another amazing one for the campaign. On Wednesday I went to Parliament House together with Dr Tony Ireland, once a palliative care specialist, now a data analyst and Peter Cleasby, Vice President of PC NSW and Board Member PCA. We met first with a Senior Advisor of the Treasurer and then followed 35 minutes with the State Treasurer, Mike Baird and his friend and mine, Rob Stokes, Member for Pittwater.
It was a great meeting. Mike Baird was wonderful and was most encouraging. He “gets” PC and he gets the need for more funding. He listened attentively when I told him that PC in NSW has been underfunded for decades and that now we are 41 palliative care physicians and 301 specialist PC nurses short of the average of the other the states per head of population. I talked about rural & regional NSW and Western Sydney issues and the Central Coast. Tony presented his data which he had already sent in a week earlier. The Senior Advisor was very complimentary about Tony’s work. He thought Tony’s estimates of what could be saved by adequate funding of palliative care were conservative. Peter Cleasby spoke with concern about the possibility that 53 palliative care positions could be lost on 30 June 2013 if the Commonwealth doesn’t continue its enhancement funding to subacute services (including palliative care).
Mike Baird and his senior advisor were entirely supportive of our campaign and directed us to pursue it through Health so that a firm proposal could be put to Treasury through the right channels. I left with a big smile on my face and a new determination to help push through the red tape.
My further research has revealed a stark picture. Some medium sized rural towns such as Bega (district population 34,000) and Mudgee (22,000) have only 20 hours a week cover by a palliative care nurse and in the Murrumbidgee LHD there are 87,000 people with only one PC nurse. In Western Sydney there is no palliative care specialist for the community service for 800,000 people and in the Central Coast there is no access to specialist palliative care doctors after hours for a population of 325,000. None of rural NSW has any 24/7 cover. I am sure there will be more nasty shocks as I move around rural NSW.
I am pretty sure more funding will be coming. We just have to keep the pressure up. The work the new Palliative care Network is doing at ACI seems to be an all important pre-requisite.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign so far. Without you we would never have come this far. Keep the signatures coming in, if you can. They really help. Don’t forget that you can contact me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions or information.