Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams says there needs more open discussion about how to better support the physical, personal, social and spiritual needs of people as death approaches.
That was the context for a palliative care roundtable discussion in Kempsey on Monday. It is one of nine such events to be hosted around the state, with Mrs Williams chairing all but one.
Health professionals, palliative care staff and families were invited to uncover gaps in the current palliative care model, prioritise areas that require improvement and suggest solutions to address any shortcomings.
Mrs Williams said that more than half of all deaths in Australia occur in hospitals, though many people indicate at various stages of their lives that they would prefer to die at home.
“At the metro roundtable and the regional conferences already held, people certainly talked openly and honestly about positive programs and also about what is missing,” she said.
“We want to ensure everybody going through palliation has the best access to services and that includes carers, patients and their families.”
Dr Daniel Curley of Coffs’ Clinical Network hopes the main outcome of the meeting will be the strengthening of the model in a number of areas to ensure a sufficiently robust solely palliative care system.
“Palliative care is not an end-of-life service,” Dr Curley said.
“People can receive palliative care for many years, and can go on and off palliative care throughout, depending on their health at any given time. Building a sustainable workforce has to be a priority and ensuring regions link in with other regions.”
“The Mid North Coast has one of the best home death rates in the state at around 50 per cent.”
We want to ensure everybody going through palliation has the best access to services and that includes carers, patients and their families.Leslie Williams
Mid North Coast Dying With Dignity NSW convenor Annie Quadroy said her group was disappointed not to be invited to the roundtable.
She says the group, while not providing palliative care, ‘is certainly on the edge of it’ and would have had significant input into the discussion.
“We have more than 500 members and represent the view of more than 75 per cent of the population who want legalised dying,” Ms Quadroy said.
“Palliative care simply cannot relieve all pain with a report saying that between 22 and 25 per cent of all patients in palliative care die in moderate to severe pain.
“Our group is calling for the legal choice of medically assisted dying for the terminally ill. Everybody should be allowed to have that legal choice. Even if it is not used, it’s still a very powerful tool,” she said.
Ms Quadroy urged people to read the draft dying with dignity bill which was this week released for public comment. She says this is an opportunity for people to read the bill, and then contact their local members of parliament to tell them what they think should happen.
Mid North Coast Dying With Dignity NSW will next meet at Panthers Port Macquarie on May 30 at 10am. The theme of the meeting is living, loving and caring with dementia.
A spokesperson for Williams’s office said invitations to the roundtales were sent via local health districts.
The public can make comment once the outcomes discussion paper on all nine roundtables is completed and released.