Happy New Year everyone – I hope that you and your loved ones have enjoyed the recent holiday period to its full, and used it as an opportunity to relax, reflect on the year that was and prepare for the year ahead.
For Push For Palliative, 2015 was an incredible year of action, with some piecemeal improvements across NSW. But by and large these improvements have numbered too few and too small.
At the beginning of this year, 2016, we are in the best position yet to push like never before for better access to palliative care across the state. Please read on for a summary of the past year’s progress, and to see the next vital steps of our Push.
From politicians and clinicians in Canberra, Senior citizens in Raymond Terrace, and specialists at the Daffodil Cottage in Bathurst (where I hear, since meeting with Minister for Local Government Paul Toole, there have been significant improvements), last year I visited many places and talked to many people.
Orange, Manning Valley (Taree) and Dubbo were all major hubs of activity, with each of the three regions forming a local Push For Palliative group during the year.
Back in February, Orange organised its first public meeting attended by over 200 – now things are heating up, fanned by a 4000 signature-strong petition for a designated inpatient unit in the new Orange Hospital. Even in light of administrative resistance, the group has achieved funding for 1.7 FTE additional palliative care nurses who will be on call after hours for the community, and $3000 in fundraising.
Manning Valley had a terrific windfall following community meetings and action there, with Local Member Stephen Bromhead gifting the group a substantial sum of $15,000 in September. And in Dubbo too, sustained community meetings culminated in November with the formation of a strong local group there. (The XPT train to and from Dubbo has proved to be a great networking venue!).
Meetings abounded in 2015. In all, I met with 10 Local Members throughout the year individually, but of note were meetings with Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet, who promised to help upon learning that palliative care would need at minimum an additional $26M in funding annually, and, accompanied by Nicole Winram, meetings with Local Member John Robertson and journalists from the Blacktown Advocate on the parlous state of community palliative care there. Word of the latter has reached the Health Minister – watch this space.
Other significant meetings include in Parramatta where the Sydney Ambassadors met, Newcastle, where I spoke with clinicians and the HNE Head of Cancer and Director of Palliative Care, community meetings in Mt Gambier, Richmond, Maitland, Bowral, the Probus Club in Cronulla, the Uruguayan Club, Hinchinbrook, the Roseville Uniting Church on Daffodil Day, and the Macquarie Street meeting for RNs in front of Parliament House.
Not to forget meetings with the CWA in Illawarra, Rotary in Asquith, Good Causes Good Karma in the UK, and a brief word on stage with Mike Baird at the Award Ceremony for Australian of the Year Finalists. Like I said, it was a busy year.
Having shored up our campaign on several fronts over the past year, Push For Palliative is poised to take on 2016 with renewed energy.
In NSW we’re 51 Ambassadors strong, with 3 local Push For Palliative groups and several others emerging in Tamworth, the Central Coast and Wagga. We are now truly national, having spread to the ACT, Mt Gambier in SA, and sparking interest in VIC, TAS and QLD. We’re at 80,000 signatures and counting on our petition, asking the State Government to adequately fund palliative care in NSW. The latest 10,000 signatures will be presented early this year to Mike Baird hoping for another debate in Parliament.
This comes with added pressure from the Cancer Council, which has taken up palliative care as its main advocacy campaign issue in 2016, and the ACI Palliative Care Network’s Blueprint Launch at the tail-end of last year.
The ACI Blueprint is key to moving forward. It’s been three years in the making, but contained in this blueprint are 10 essential components needed for palliative care in NSW, one of which is specialist palliative care.
Does palliative care in your area meet all 10 components as outlined in the Blueprint? Sadly I doubt it, but please let me know if I’m mistaken.