Bega palliative care plan a state first

COOPERATION between health services for the benefit of the region’s most vulnerable patients has been recognised with the launch of the After Hours Palliative Care Plan. 

This new system of care allows for paramedics to implement an approved GP treatment plan to a palliative care patient where once they would have been transferred to hospital. 

The service brings together NSW Ambulance, Southern NSW Medicare Local (SNSWML) and Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD), which SNSWML CEO Kathryn Stonestreet acknowledged was “quite a logistical feat!”

The project is the first of its type in NSW and Ms Stonestreet said other Medicare Locals are keen to implement this model.

“This palliative care plan represents a true integration of services, and is a locally adapted, collaborative strategy that provides care and support for palliative care patients in southern NSW.

“This service will help vulnerable people through difficult times with humanity and care,” she said. 

This joint venture began after discussions in 2013 between former SNSWML after hours care coordinator Jo Risk, Mark Gibbs and Michelle Shiel from NSW Ambulance and SNSWLHD palliative care clinical nurse consultant Jacquie Clancy. 

Now in consultation with a palliative care patient and their family, a GP can complete an Ambulance Authorised Adult Palliative Care Plan.

In the event of a Triple Zero call it allows paramedics to administer pain relief and manage symptoms that previously would have required the patient to be transferred to hospital. 

Mr Gibbs, the NSW Ambulance southern clinical support manager, said the After Hours Palliative Care Plan formally recognises informal protocols already existing within the paramedic service. 

“Now the paramedic will have a formalised plan from the patient’s GP and we can implement that treatment. 

“Paramedics have a lot of empathy for this situation and don’t want to take a patient to the hospital unnecessary but would sometimes be forced to because of a lack of treatment protocol,” he said. 

NSW Ambulance southern area training manager Bernie Dufield agreed.

“This is good for the patient and gives them a better chance of staying in their home for end of life care.

“Often if we transferred them to hospital they didn’t return home.

“We just want to do the right by the patient because if they have a final wish about their care it should be respected,” he said. 

Member for Bega Andrew Constance was on hand to launch the project and acknowledged that even with this new initiative palliative care was “badly under-resourced in our part of the world”.

“Having this after hours service in a regional area is of vital importance, but we still have a lot of work to do in the area of palliative care, it’s about human dignity,” he said.   

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