September 2013 Update

We are still collecting signatures on the petition. Since last year’s big push which yielded 59,864 signatures we have collected a further 8963 this year so far. I’d love to get to 10,000 again!

It still remains for the Government to bring the specialist palliative care workforce (doctors, nurses and allied health) up to a level where, when people need their expert assistance, be it for pain or other symptom control, or assistance with the other myriad difficulties which attend the end of life, the palliative care services have the capacity to meet their needs.

Palliative care services, which will hopefully care for people living at home, will also be needed to consult, advise, support, liaise and provide treatment in relation to dying members of the NSW community in other environments, particularly in aged care facilities and in acute hospitals, and the deficiency in these areas  will not be removed by improving home care and in-home respite services.  Furthermore palliative care doctors and nurses will be needed for educational purposes, to teach and train GPs, community nurses and other professionals who deal with people at the end of life, including social workers to provide bereavement care.  In these areas also there are insufficient palliative care workers to meet the community’s needs.

The severe shortage of qualified doctors and nurses willing to provide specialist palliative care services to dying residents of aged care facilities in NSW is a widespread problem.  The availability of such services has been shown to greatly reduce transfers to Emergency Departments.  I am told that the recent withdrawal of these cost-effective services in western Sydney has been accompanied by a marked spike in ED activity.

Likewise the scarcity of specialist palliative care doctors and nurses available to consult in acute hospitals is a matter of high concern . It can be shown that their services can significantly reduce both costs and, more importantly, suffering. Currently the palliative care specialists who consult in RNSH see about 1000 patients a year and are overstretched.

Yvonne McMaster

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