Study finds severe shortage of palliative care doctors

The study is significant because its bolsters the Church’s case that state governments should fix the health system (Bigstock)

Despite increasing demand, Australia has only half the number of palliative care doctors needed to provide good quality care for chronically and terminally ill patients, a new academic study has found. Source: The Catholic Leader.

Published in the midst of Australia’s hotly contested end-of-life debate, the study by the PM Glynn Institute at Australian Catholic University, is significant because its bolsters the Church's case that state governments should fix Australia’s existing health system, not consider legislation to allow voluntary assisted dying.

The ACU study found that Australia has 0.9 specialists per 100,000 people in the population, even though industry benchmarks require a full-time equivalent rate of two palliative care physicians per 100,000 people.

“People say voluntary assisted dying is about giving patients a choice but if dying patients cannot access the palliative care services they need, they don’t really have a free choice,” PM Glynn Institute Director Michael Casey said.

“We need to do more to ensure that everyone who needs good quality palliative care can access it, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances, before considering a momentous step like voluntary assisted dying,” Dr Casey said.

ACU report author Cris Abbu said more doctors and nurses need to be encouraged to choose to work in palliative care.

“Palliative care remains one of the least preferred specialisations of medical students for future practice and the rates of full-time equivalent palliative medicine physicians and palliative care nurses have remained unchanged since 2013 despite the increasing demand,” Dr Abbu said.

The report recommends an active recruitment program with student scholarships and government subsidies to train an additional 225 specialist doctors.


Severe shortage of doctors for Australia’s terminally ill patients, ACU study (By Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader)

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