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AMA (NSW) President Dr Michael Bonning says that the state government’s planned cuts to palliative care services are “a cruel blow to those most in need of care.”
“When patients reach the stage of palliative care they are at their most vulnerable. They have reached a stage in life when they need and deserve enormous respect and support. To take that away from them is mean and quite frankly, unthinkable.”
The Perrottet government had committed $743 million in the 2022/23 budget to help pay for an extra 600 palliative care doctors, nurses and health staff.
But Premier Chris Minns announced his government will divert $150 million from end-of-life care to other areas of health – last week briefing Local Health Districts on how this will take effect.
It has now been revealed that at least one Local Health District will see a four-year fall in palliative care to $11.67 million from $34.2 million committed by the Perrottet government.
“A large portion of this funding was designated for community-based palliative care services, which often face chronic understaffing issues, especially in under-resourced settings like Residential Aged Care Facilities.” Dr Bonning said.
“These services not only reduce hospital admissions in acute care facilities but also prevent the distressing scenario of critically ill patients having to present to the emergency department and ultimately passing away in a hospital setting, when they could receive dignified end-of-life care in the comfort of their own homes.
“Waitlists to see a palliative care doctor for patients who are rapidly approaching the end of life in Western Sydney are taking multiple weeks. To force people to wait longer is heartless and inhumane.”
While some of the funding will be used to support the state’s introduction of Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) next month, AMA (NSW) believes this should not come at the expense of palliative care.
“VAD is part of the options for end-of-life care but it is not intended to be a replacement for palliative care. Supporters of VAD have recognised and called for VAD to be introduced in conjunction with appropriate supports for palliative care.”
“Defunding palliative care is not only undignified it is also false economy. Leaving end of life patients to rely on ad hoc health services is enormously expensive.” Dr Bonning said. “On average people who died used more services in their last year of life than the rest of the population in a single year. Overall, the average annual health service cost per person for people in their last year of life was 14 times as high as for those not in the last year of life.
“Those costs are diffused when effective palliative care services are funded and available, saving millions for our health service and allowing the citizens of New South Wales the care and respect they deserve.”
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