Palliative Care

The Hon. PAUL GREEN [3.54 p.m.]: Tonight I speak about Palliative Care NSW. Good palliative care does not take shortcuts with people’s lives or leave them suffering excruciating pain. That is bad or poor palliative care. Good palliative care providers insist on appropriate pain relief without the intention to hasten someone’s death. On the other hand, they certainly do not try to extend a person’s suffering. Good palliative care does not try to shorten or extend life; it tries to keep one’s remaining lifetime as comfortable as possible. I refer to the document entitled, “Palliative Care NSW Policy Statement: providing informed input to the development of palliative care policy in NSW”. Healthcare reform at national and State levels has resulted in considerable changes to the New South Wales health care system. The main concern of Palliative Care NSW is that these reforms will result in improved and more equitable access to palliative care for people in New South Wales.Palliative Care NSW is the peak body for palliative care in New South Wales and represents the interests of health care professionals, people with a life-limiting illness, and their carers and families. Its vision is that every person in New South Wales who is diagnosed with a condition that will result in their death in the foreseeable future has access to quality palliative and end-of-life care that addresses their physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs. The Christian Democratic Party strongly endorses this vision. Everyone approaching the end of their life, along with their family and carers, require some level of support and access to a range of health and other services. The range and depth of services required obviously depends on the nature and length of the illness.

Palliative Care NSW acknowledges that not all people approaching the end of their lives require specialist palliative care, but everyone in New South Wales deserves quality health care that allows them to live as well as they can until their death. The problem is that at the moment every person in New South Wales does not have access to quality care as they approach and reach the end of life. Palliative Care NSW explains that the quality of care largely depends on where one lives and/or the nature of one’s illness. People who have non-cancer related life-limiting illnesses such as dementia, renal failure, heart failure, end-stage respiratory disease and many others also experience inequity of access. This is because palliative care services have historically been linked to cancer funding models and services.While this has changed over recent decades, the historical cancer-based funding model has not been reviewed and amended to meet the increased—and increasing—demands of non-cancer causes of death. Poor service delivery models for palliative care reflect the challenges facing the general health care system. As I mentioned, these challenges are currently the subject of reform at national and State levels. Palliative Care NSW indicates that equitable access to palliative care does not result from the challenge of servicing regional or remote communities. It results from skewed funding models, inadequate resourcing across health areas, and fragmented and inconsistent approaches to service delivery.The Christian Democratic Party also notes that Palliative Care NSW has welcomed the announcement by the New South Wales Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research, the Hon. Jillian Skinner, in August 2011 that the New South Wales Ministry of Health would undertake an exercise to map current palliative care services against population needs. She announced also that the ministry would investigate population planning tools to assist in future planning, and examine workforce capability, including the training of and resources available to support volunteers. The report by Palliative Care NSW makes 33 recommendations.

I have worked in palliative care for many years. One of the most rewarding things that loved ones can do for a person facing the end of their life is stroke their hair, do their hair, hold their hand, speak to them, read scriptures, sing to them or say poetry. There are a lot of ways to minister to someone who is at the end of their life. One does not think they are responding but internally they are responding and it is those times when we think they cannot hear that they are hearing us shout loving communication.