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  • Writer's pictureHugh McDermott

Palliative care must be better resourced in Western Sydney

Palliative care is an important part of our healthcare system. Sadly our community is consistently let down by this Government.

In the Electorate of Prospect there are 15 Aged Care homes, however the access to palliative care for those elderly residents is hugely constrained through a lack of Government resourcing.

As a community, NSW is not doing enough for palliative care, especially at a time when we have an ageing population.

Palliative care needs to be given more of a priority by the NSW Government.

It’s a topic that we naturally don’t like to reflect on – contemplating the passing of our loved one’s or indeed even ourselves is difficult.

However, we have a responsibility to ensure that we care for our sick and elderly until their last breath with appropriate palliative care.

To not do so is a betrayal of who we are in NSW – a compassionate, caring society that values the sanctity of human life.

The Government continues to fail the families of the electorate of Prospect, and Western Sydney, in this regard.

Westmead Hospital complex is the biggest health precinct in the Southern Hemisphere and the medical and research jewel in the crown for NSW Health.

Presently there is no dedicated palliative care ward, despite being the major hospital catchment for a large part of Western Sydney.

Just seven beds are ‘dedicated’ in the oncology ward for palliative care at Westmead Hospital.

Seven beds, for the largest hospital in the southern hemisphere with the biggest population in Australia, which is Western Sydney.

If a patient requires palliative care and those sevens beds are needed by the oncology ward, the palliative care patient is moved to another ward of the hospital, where the nurses and medical professionals are not specifically trained for palliative care.

This causes extreme distress for the patient and their families, who are already going through an incredibly difficult time.

Throughout Western Sydney it is a similar story - No dedicated palliative care wards at Auburn, Fairfield, Blacktown, Campbelltown or Nepean Hospital.

Although these hospitals have access to some palliative care beds, the issue is frequently that patients are transferred either between wards or to other hospitals to cater for their often complex needs.

To be shuffled around ward to ward, hospital to hospital, at the end of one’s life is a shame upon our current system.

Currently, NSW Health has outsourced its palliative care responsibilities in Western Sydney to a private provider, Silver Chain which provides for their clients to die at home.

Thus all care and responsibility lies with the family of the loved ones rather than support from palliative care professionals.

This is often a stressful and harrowing experience for the family.

The best efforts of Silver Chain in the service of their clients can never replace the results of a full-time palliative care ward, with professional healthcare staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Frankly we need to be doing better for our community members, at the end of their lives.

The NSW Government investment into palliative care each year, for patients is inadequate.

This is more than just looking after our community members until they die, this is about improving the quality of life for our sick and elderly’s last days.

This would ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to be well cared for and to die with dignity. It will provide crucial support for our families.

I have spoken to representatives and families about the challenges and difficulty they have had with palliative care of their loved ones.

I have also met with representatives from the Westmead Push for Palliative Community. A group, who feel that they have been ignored by this Government.

I know from these families and healthcare professionals that they want to make the system better - so that future families do not have to endure the same hardship and pain.

For a population as large as NSW, when palliative care provides such an important role, the current funding provided by the Government is just not enough to service the community.

I call on the NSW Government to commit to providing a dedicated palliative care ward at Westmead Hospital Precinct, as well as making a commitment to consider a significant funding increase in investment in palliative care across NSW.

Western Sydney can not afford to be left further behind in this space with an ageing population across the region.

This needs to be done to protect the quality of life for NSW residents and would help families when they are going through some of their most challenging days, at a loved one’s end of life.

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