Where we are at the end of 2016

Since our fourth Parliamentary debate in September, we’re seeing plans and talk about palliative care pick up in all parts of the state – but despite vocal campaigning, there is still incommensurate action on behalf of the Government.

As the year comes to an end, now is a useful time to assess where we stand so we might zero in on the areas which need more pushing throughout 2017.

Cancer Council campaigning

Talk about palliative care in the media is thanks in large part to the Cancer Council’s vigorous new campaign – I Care For Palliative Care.

This campaign is in full swing – with a meeting with the Premier and Health Minister in July, November saw the launch of the ‘Planning For Change’ event, attended by CAN advocates from all over NSW, including several of our Push for Palliative Ambassadors. The Cancer Council is asking for funding for at least 10 more specialist palliative physicians and 129 additional specialist palliative nurses across NSW, with provisions for the culturally appropriate care of Indigenous Australians.

To this end, the campaign has produced a book of heart-wrenching real life stories which illustrate all too sadly what happens when palliative care is in short supply. Off the back of this activity, media stories have been published in Albury and Tamworth, with the call for pledges making headlines in Dubbo.

To help with the campaign, please consider signing the Cancer Council’s pledge if you haven’t done so already, and share with your contacts far and wide.

Movements around the state

The ACI Palliative Care Network Blueprint for Palliative Care was launched earlier this year, and is now being worked though, slowly but steadily, by some of the Local Health Districts. The process right now is on assessing what needs to be improved in order to meet the “Ten Essential Components” of care included in the blueprint, which include access to specialist palliative care.

In good news, it has been confirmed that there will be a new palliative care unit at the beautiful Mona Vale Hospital site. In Wagga, builders have been appointed for the construction of the Forrest Centre. The centre has been billed as a 10 bed hospice – my understanding is that it is a slow stream palliative care unit within an aged care facility. You can find out more here.

The much-needed palliative physician position for Albury is now being advertised, while progress in Maitland is disasterous following the recent resignation of Maitland’s inspirational palliative physician.

Meanwhile, the NSW Audit Office has begun investigating palliative care data across the state.

News from our Ambassadors

At the end of the year, we now have 56 Ambassadors across the state attuned to the palliative care shortages in their local communities. Their news points consistently to black holes in specialist staff availability and palliative care units – see which areas you would like to get involved with in the new year:

On the Central Coast, we have an energetic group of advocates headed by Oana McBride and Margaret Pearce of the Tuggerah Lions Club, pushing for more specialist palliative care staff and a designated palliative care unit to be included in the grounds of Wyong Hospital as it is rebuilt.

The plight is similar in Orange, with the Push For Palliative community there focused on the inclusion of a palliative care unit in the new hospital, and more specialist palliative care staff. Fundraising by the Manning Valley (Taree) group is helping to assist their community when they need palliative care, and to advocate for more specialist availability more broadly.

Meanwhile, Lucy Haslam and Mitch Williams in Tamworth are strenuously calling for a full time specialist physician, many more nurses, and allied health. The need is so great as the region has currently only one FTE palliative care nurse for a local population of 60,000 – with many more in the broader district.

Signatures on our petition to increase funding to palliative care stand at 84,529.

Some inspiration…

I recently attended PCNSW’s 2016 conference in Broken Hill at which the Health Minister spoke and conceded, “I do realise that we must still do much more.”

Among the presenters, including Sarah Wenham, Melissa Cumming, and Anthoulla Mohamudally, all of whom spoke magnificently, was a moving presentation by BJ Miller. If you haven’t heard BJ speak before, his renowned TED talk, now viewed 4.7 million times, is a must-watch and powerful reminder of just how important palliative care is.

See you in 2017!

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