There is hope that palliative care access on the Far South Coast may improve following a $100 million budget announcement and a series of regional roundtable discussions.
The welcome funding comes on the back of calls by Milton Black, of Tura Beach for Pambula Hospital to have a focus on palliative care.
The discussion, hosted in Queanbeyan by Bronnie Taylor, Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW, identified a number of issues after hearing from health professionals, consumers and academics.
With $100 million in funding from the the state government for palliative care throughout NSW, and rural needs identified, there is an expectation of improvement.
The roundtable was one in a series of regional roundtables on the subject, to hear what local stakeholders felt was working best in the region, what their priorities were for palliative care, and what solutions they proposed to the priorities identified.
A number of participants spoke about their personal experience and expertise with palliative care services in the region.
Ms Taylor was a palliative care nurse for 20 years in Cooma Monaro and also a McGrath nurse before entering Parliament as a senator in 2015.
“It’s a subject very close to my heart,” Ms Taylor said.
Priorities put forward included the need for flexible care, ensuring sufficient local staff are trained and available, and making palliative care services more integrated.
“There are some things we do well and others not so well. There’s acknowledgement that there needs to be general nurses trained up on palliative care,” Ms Taylor said.
“There are so many different organisations working in a disconnected way. We had one aged care facility that didn’t realise they could access palliative care packages, for example,” she said.
One of the major issues is flexibility of care.
“It’s about what people want. They may initially want to stay at home and then when things become more difficult decide they may be better in hospital,” Ms Taylor said.
She said in an ideal situation specialised care should be available but also support for those, and their carers, who want to stay at home.
Staffing and a lack of a hospice remain a problem in the local area.
Ms Taylor said trained staff just “aren’t out there” irrespective of what funding may be available.
“We want people who are there with an interest in palliative care so that we can train them up. We want them to stay,” she said.
Part of the NSW government’s budget identifies training for 300 nurses and allied health staff, 300 scholarships for rural and regional staff to enhance palliative care skills and 30 additional nurses in hospitals, homes and nursing homes.
A clinical nurse educator has been funded for Bega but the position has not yet been filled.
Everyone is encouraged to read the reports on the roundtable discussions and then provide feedback on a discussion paper, which will be made available next month.
The 2017-18 state budget includes funding for:
palliative care training for 300 nurses and allied health staff ($900,000)
300 scholarships for rural and regional staff to enhance palliative care skills ($300,000)
an additional six palliative care specialists in rural and regional areas ($2.4 million)
two specialist positions to provide relief to other specialists in rural and regional areas ($795,000)
an additional 30 palliative care nurses providing care in hospitals, homes and nursing homes ($5 million)
community-based palliative care services in Western Sydney, including a 24 hour, seven day a week on-call specialist palliative care service at home ($6.9 million)
the development of comprehensive and integrated palliative care services, in line with community expectations and need ($1 million in 2017-18 as part of a $22 million investment over four years)
community pharmacy initiatives to improve medication management for palliative care patients ($200,000)