On Thursday September 15, we had our third debate in Parliament for our petition demanding increased government funding for specialist palliative care in NSW. The turnout was terrific, with both galleries full to brimming over and some senior Ministers in the Chamber too!
It started with the Health Minister, Jillian Skinner who said “the NSW Government is committed to ensuring that NSW residents receive appropriate care that meets their palliative and end of life care needs”. She outlined what had already been done by her government, especially the end of life care packages which have already helped about 5,000 people over three years – a drop in the bucket in NSW which has an annual death rate of 47,000!
She put some of the responsibility for palliative care provision on the Local Health Districts and asserted that “the number of specialist medical and nursing staff alone is not necessarily a good measure of the extent to which the needs of people who are dying and their families and carers are met.”
She went on to say that, “the Government is committed to growing the palliative care workforce and has been since 2011”, but later speaks of the (only) seven additional training positions for physicians which have been created since 2011. With so few funded positions created for palliative physician training the past five years, it is little wonder that (as she says) “recruitment…..of staff specialists is particularly challenging”.
The second speaker for the Government, Mr Adam Crouch, essentially repeated what the Minister had said but slipped in one thing which could help in some areas, namely “the NSW Government will be exploring options to develop social impact investment initiatives to compliment existing palliative care”. That could mean that an NGO or other body could value-add to what the existing palliative care services are doing in a cost-effective way. We all know that palliative care, whether it is provided in the community, in aged care facilities or in acute hospitals, is cost-effective.
In response were three excellent and heartfelt speeches from three Labor members: Member for Maitland, Jenny Aitchison; Member for the Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle; and Member for Wyong, David Harris. All spoke supportively of the demands made by the 83,335 petitioners, namely for better resourcing of the specialist palliative care workforce.
Trish Doyle (pictured below) really got to the crux of the issue – that properly funding specialist palliative care would relieve suffering while relieving much pressure on the Government purse. She cited Dr Anthony Ireland’s and my research to say that “an investment of $27 million would reduce costs elsewhere in the health system by some $140 million, with reduced presentations at emergency departments and shorter average length of stay for patients who attend a hospital”.
We ended the day with photographs on the steps of NSW Parliament House, with the group joined by Jenny Aitchinson and Trish Doyle.
Once again, my many thanks to everyone who was able to make it on the day from far and wide – from Wagga, Maitland, Southern Highlands and the Central Coast. And to those who sent their well wishes in their absence. Your presence and support definitely made an impact on the day – let’s keep pushing!