Palliative care resources 'distressingly low'

Clare Holland House (Calvary Health Care)

A parliamentary inquiry into end-of-life choices in the ACT has heard that palliative care resources are “distressingly low” in Canberra. Source: Canberra Times.

Staff at Calvary Health Care’s hospice Clare Holland House are under pressure to push dying patients in and out as quickly as possible, while dealing with bottlenecks in referrals, the inquiry heard.

Canberra Hospital’s palliative care service is also stretched, with a low number of specialists.

Doctors, former politicians and peak health bodies appeared before an ACT Legislative Committee examining the end-of-life choices available to dying Canberrans yesterday.

While the inquiry has dwelt on the ACT’s inability to legalise voluntary assisted dying due to Commonwealth restrictions, it has also heard evidence of shortcomings in the territory’s palliative care system.

The Canberra Hospital’s director of palliative medicine, Dr Michael Chapman, was called to give evidence again, this time in a personal capacity.

Dr Chapman restated there were just four full-time palliative medicine specialists in the ACT, a number he described as insufficient and “arguably less than half” what was needed.

He also said his personal belief was the number of trained palliative nurses - rather than nurses who happened to work in palliative care - was insufficient, as too was the number of allied health staff in the sector.

Catholic Health Australia chief executive Suzanne Greenwood described the number of specialist palliative care physicians as “distressingly low”.

She appeared with the manager of Clare Holland House, Jane Etchells, who said while the biggest gaps in palliative care remained in the aged care and community sectors, the hospice was under pressure.

“The fact of the matter is we have 19 beds, we are under the restrictions of activity-based funding so we can’t have people that come to Clare Holland House that stay for months and months and months,” Ms Etchells said.


Palliative care resources ‘distressingly low’ in Canberra (Canberra Times)

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