The NSW government has pledged $743 million in additional funding for palliative care services over the next five years, highlighting some of the work that needs to be done to ensure quality end-of-life care is available to everyone in the state.
Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet, who opposed the recently passed Voluntary Assisted Dying Act, said the 2022-23 funding increase would come on top of the $300 million the government already invests in palliative care each year.
The package includes $650 million over five years to provide 600 nurses, paramedics, physicians, and support staff and increase hospital capacity for palliative care and support for people who wish to remain at home at the end of their lives.
An additional $93 million will be used for capital investment to redevelop and refurbish NSW Health facilities, including new dedicated palliative care units at Westmead Hospital and Nepean Hospital.
“I want to make sure that in our state we have not only the best palliative care services in the country but in the world.” – Dominic Perrottet.
The announcement comes a month after passing the state’s VAD law. During the parliamentary debate, the Prime Minister and opposition leader Chris Minn opposed the legislation.
Perrottet said the government’s commitment was about “providing the utmost comfort and dignity to people at the end of their lives, whether in hospital, at home or in the wider community, in the whole state.”
“The sign of a just society is how we care for the most vulnerable, and for too long in this state, we have not provided care and support to those who are coming to the end of their lives. I want to make sure that in our state, we have not only the best palliative care services in the country but in the world.”
Linda Hansen, CEO of Palliative Care NSW, welcomed the promised additional funding and said the announcement included almost everything the full body had included in its budget submissions each year.
“This funding will assure services and organizations in developing programs to enable people to live well with life-limiting illness and support people and their families at the end of life,” she said.
She also welcomed the renewed focus on delivering quality palliative care in regional and rural areas.
“Providing increased resources, support, and training for nurses, allied health professionals, physicians, and palliative care support staff across NSW will improve the palliative and end-of-life care experiences for patients and their families now and in the future. Funding recognizes the dedication and commitment of those who work in the palliative care industry to provide the best outcomes for residents of NSW.
“Current estimates are that up to 75 percent of people who die in Australia now miss out on palliative care.” – Andrew Montague.
The scarcity of quality palliative care facilities in rural and regional areas has been identified as a dilemma for people with terminal illnesses in the wake of the passage of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act in NSW.
“The impact of it is serious because although VAD is being touted as a choice, it means that for many people there is no choice – they have VAD but not the alternative of the high standard of [palliative] approach to care,” Maria Cigolini, clinical director of palliative medicine at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, told Eternity earlier this month.
HammondCare, a major provider of palliative care services in Sydney, said the state government’s commitment to more community-based services to reduce hospital stays was encouraging. It looked forward to more information about the government’s plans for partnerships with nongovernmental organizations. Organizations, primary care organizations, and aged care providers.
“However, this announcement should be seen as just a start. Current estimates indicate that up to 75 percent of people who die in Australia now lack palliative care. The outcomes are even worse in residential aged care: only about 6 percent of residents have access to palliative care despite increasingly complex needs. In regional areas, end-of-life support is essentially a zip code lottery,” said Andrew Montague, HammondCare’s general health and palliative care manager.
HammondCare released a strategy last month, Reshaping Palliative Care for the Future: Strategy to 2026, to help more people die peacefully and with dignity in their homes, residential aged care, or hospitals.