Above: Screenshot of the ‘More funds for pallative care’ campaign website

By Yasmin Noone

More than 26,000 NSW-residents, from country towns and metropolitan areas alike, have put their names to a petition rallying the state government to up palliative care funding by $50 million in the 2012/13 budget.

The state-wide petition and campaign by the same name, More funds for palliative care, aims to draw attention to “gross deficiencies’ in the availability of palliative care for adults and children.

The campaign calls for greater funding to train a sufficient number of palliative care workers (nursing, medical and allied health) to service existing and future palliative care needs.

“…The June 2012 State Budget only allocated $5M to palliative care,” the campaign website reads.

“Due in part to our ageing population, the demand for palliative care services is increasing.

“Over the 10-year period from 1999 to 2009 the number of admissions for palliative care in Australian hospitals increased by 56 per cent.

“Yet state funding has not increased since 2007 until the tiny $5 million boost this year.

“We need more than ten times this to adequately care for palliative care needs of the people of NSW.

“…Last year’s campaign collected 24,000 signatures; imagine what we can do in 2012!”

The 2012 campaign petition asks the NSW Legislative Assembly to provide for sufficient palliative care services to “meet the existing and anticipated future demands for such services in all areas of the state and in all types of institutions or other places where such services are required”.

More funds for palliative care follows on from the independent groups’ 24,000-signature strong campaign in 2011, which successfully convinced the state government to reinstate funds for palliative care in the Northern Sydney Local Health District.

Behind the campaign website

The woman behind the campaign is Dr Yvonne McMaster, who worked as a NSW-based palliative care doctor for more than 20 years.

She said she aims to get 100 000 signatures but would also be happy with 50 000 – one for each million dollars of funding the campaign requests the state government contribute to quality palliative care service provision: “It’s a very serious campaign”.

Dr McMasters agreed that the figure requested – $50 million – “is a lot” and admits “the state government is strapped for cash”.

“But the thing with funding palliative care is that it can save a lot of money spent on acute care and hospitals.

“If palliative care services are funded, we allow staff to go into nursing homes, advise them how to enable residents to die in place and keep people comfortable while they are living.

“…So we are currently doing a business case to show how much money can be saved by funding community palliative care.”

Dr McMasters aims to present the petition to the NSW Government before state parliament starts budget discussions next month and meet with the state Treasurer, Mike Baird, about he matter. 

“We can’t go on as a civilized society, treating people in the way they are being treated.

“We really have to provide better palliative care.”
 
A groundswell of support

Campaigners have spent recent weeks and months collecting signatures for the petition from empathetic supporters all over the state, including those working in hospitals, GP clinics, palliative care centres and aged care facilities; and passers-by on busy city streets in local chemists and even suburban grocery stores.

The Leukaemia Foundation, the Groundswell project, Aged Care Crisis, the United Hospital Auxiliaries of New South Wales, Combined Pensioners and Superannuants of NSW, and the Cancer Council have also thrown their weight behind the campaign, as have the Country Women’s Association and various Lions Clubs groups.

“It’s just amazing how people have been getting involved in the campaign.

“I initially wrote to the CWA head office but never got a letter back. Then suddenly these petitions came in from the most outback little towns. There are hundreds of branches of CWA so they obviously emailed hundreds of them.

“…We’ve got one woman who has [independently] gotten 2000 signatures, just by going up and down the [suburbs along the Sydney] train line, telling people about palliative care and seeing if they will support the campaign.

“…There’s an elderly woman, whose husband died (she’s from Wagga Wagga), who has been tireless in getting signatures.

“And we’ve got one man who is 87, who goes around on his walking frame in cafes collecting signatures.”

The overwhelming support for the cause, she said, “is just beautiful”.

The petition currently has 26,008 signatures but the online tally, shown on the campaign’s wordpress.com site, keeps increasing day-by-day.

The campaign is especially gathering interest, she said, wherever older people are.

“By the time you get old, you start to realise that life doesn’t go on forever and at the end of your life, you will want to get some help.

“So older people are really getting activated.

Dr McMasters believes the campaign, to-date, has been successful and will be successful in pushing palliative care funding over the line in the 2012/13 NSW Budget.

The reasons, she said, are simple.

“Palliative care staff don’t get into palliative care because they want to …make money. They are there because they really want to be close to people, and walk with them [on their end-of-life journey].

“The people whose families have been in contact with palliative care know how fantastic the services are. They know that the services are there when they are facing a crisis- and that is what death is, a crisis.

“So this campaign is supported by the wives, children and friends of the people who have died.

“The other thing is that people appreciate palliative care and know it is not available everywhere. So they feel a commitment to try and improve things.

“And they have seen that we were successful with our campaign last year….”

Petition signatures will continue to be collected for a few more weeks.

“In life, we see a lot of things that are wrong and we think how can we fix this? This [campaign] is that ‘something’ that we can do to fix this problem.

“If we have enough signatures from the whole community that will show the government that the community really cares.

“It will change their minds and help them to justify expenditure on palliative care, especially when they have to be careful with their spending their money in other areas.”

Click here to visit the More funds for palliative care website

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2 Comments

  1. Palliative care needs funding in the community and aged care facilities.People are transferred to aged care facilities to die without putting in place support for the patient,their family or the facilities they are transferred to.While the aged care facilities do their best to support the patient and their families there is often little or no support from any outside services and the palliative care services cease when they enter an aged care facility.If the GP is not supportive.Changes in client symptoms in order to be addressed meann they have to have an unnecessary ambulance transfer to an acute facility to get the medication ordered they need.General practitioners in the community need more training and support to facilitate good quality care in the community and aged care facilities.Nurses in the community and aged care facilities need access to palliative care services medical staff to get urgent drug and medical orders when patients condition changes suddenly.Intime past nuses had access to palliative care doctors.Now urgent services ust go through the ambulance service or transferring patients unnecessarily back to hospital.With extra funding nurses in the community and residential services could access urgent patient care as t was needed

  2. There is so much goodwill in aged care,the work in aged care is changing,with recent Aust.data suggesting 60% of new resident are likely to die within the first year of admission(10yrs ago~ 20%died with the first yr)There is so much good will experience and knowledge in RACF at all levels.Too often those involved in the care of a resdients are at times unprepared for the residents, or have not recognised expectd deteriorations or signs dying- causing distress , time consuming crises , uncertainity around symptom management, when no clinical action plans or and medications are not inplace for the common symptoms.
    Advance care planing may be minimal, staff feel inadeqautely trained to have these discussions, presures on time , no funding for ACP discusions or reviews of ACP as these require planning and time as the persons condition continues to expectedly change overtime. ACP in the current ACFI is does not give credit to fund aged care.I see ACP discussions and common terminology used, common law etc should or be required as a core competency for all nursing staff with working in the community , hospitals ,or aged care.By exploring and knowing a persons beliefs,values dignity, priotities and preferred palce of care for now and when dying of care be recored, reviewed and documented for any peron in the final year or less of life living with a progressive chronic life limiting illnes .This person person centred approach, support for families is then communicated and known to all staff including GP’s , this then then can be aligned with the person final end of life care wishes

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