30 March 2021Share
Palliative care is poorly understood and inadequately supplied.
It is care which enhances the quality of life for people with chronic or life-limiting conditions, including those close to death.
A recent report from the PM Glynn Institute A Snapshot of Palliative Care in Australia found Australia has only half the number of palliative care doctors needed to provide good quality care for chronically and terminally ill patients, despite increasing demand.
“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,” said Dr Cris Abbu, author of the report. “We need to encourage more doctors and nurses to choose this important work.”
The PM Glynn Institute has produced a series of podcasts exploring what palliative care is, what it does, and why it is so important. Palliative care experts Dr Richard Chye, Dr Maria Cigolini, Dr Anthony Herbert and ethicist Dr Bernadette Tobin share their insights.
The podcasts also offer insights from Dr Abbu provides insights on the key findings and recommendations of the report.
The report recommends developing integrated models of palliative care service provision to reduce the burden on hospitals, using community-based care to support people in their homes, in aged care, in boarding houses, and for the homeless.
It also recommends strengthening the knowledge and role of GPs in palliative care provision, and planning for end of life care a standard part of clinical practice.
The study found better specialist services were needed for palliative care of terminally-ill children. Dr Abbu said palliative care for children was often overlooked because the number of hospitalisations is small compared to older cohorts. “Sadly, the rate of palliative care hospitalisations for children under 15 has increased by more than 10% a year annually since 2011-12. We need a dedicated policy focus to ensure they have the best possible care.”
PM Glynn Institute Director Dr Michael Casey said palliative care was a particularly important issue with the legalisation of voluntary-assisted dying in Victoria last year and plans to introduce it in WA and under the newly-elected Queensland Government.
“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,” he 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.”
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