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How Bob's final days inspired Lyn Such's new crusade

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Lyn Such is determined to step up her one-woman campaign against what she says is a dearth of palliative care services in the south under Transforming Health. But the widow of former veteran Independent MP Bob Such says she hasn’t turned her mind to whether she will have a tilt at his old seat.

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“I haven’t thought about it really,” she told InDaily.

“I’ve had so much on my mind.”

But she has determined to increase her public profile as she spreads the word about Transforming Health and what she says is a “decimating” impact on palliative care services. It’s a claim, of course, the State Government disputes, with Health Minister Jack Snelling insisting the model is based on “contemporary models of palliative care, which focus on symptom management and giving people a choice to manage their final days”.

But Such is unconvinced – and insists the experience of her husband’s final days was fundamental to her newfound zeal.

“I’m going to try and do a lot more this year about letting people know they’re not going to have any palliative care beds down south,” she said.

“They have no idea what they could have had, and what they’re not going to get now.”

She’s referring to the Labor Government’s previous health plan for 2009–2016, which stated that palliative care services at the Repat required a 22-bed unit and a new hospice at Noarlunga with a base capacity of 10 beds, to be established by 2016.

Former Health Minister John Hill said at the time the plan was “in light of increasing demand for end of life care across the health system”.

But under Transforming Health the Daw Park Hospice – where Bob Such spent his final days – will be closed, and its replacement facility at Flinders Medical Centre will provide for only 15 new beds.

“So already they’re behind,” Lyn Such said.

“All those people south of Noarlunga, I don’t know how they’re going to get treated.

“Jack Snelling keeps saying that it’s not all about inpatient beds, and I know that… but sometimes you do need to go somewhere, you can’t be helped at home.”

She insists Transforming Health has “not considered palliative care at all”.

“Sometimes I feel very angry and strongly about it,” she said.

“Transforming Health hasn’t transformed palliative care; they’ve in a way decimated it.”

Such has not yet determined how her information campaign will manifest itself, or even whether she would consider standing as a candidate in 2018, in her husband’s former seat of Fisher, set to be renamed Hurtle Vale under the proposed redistribution.

The new boundaries would also firm up the majority of Labor incumbent Nat Cook, who seized the seat by a mere nine votes in a by-election after Such’s death. However, the count was heavily influenced by the vote of unaligned candidate Daniel Woodyatt, who ran with Lyn Such’s blessing and support in a bid to keep Fisher independent.

Woodyatt has confirmed he will not run a second time, telling InDaily: “The close result in the Fisher by-election in 2014 was a great show of independence in the Adelaide metropolitan area, but, unfortunately it wasn’t close enough.”

“Given the personal cost to me and my family during the by-election, I would never consider running again,” he said.

Dan Woodyatt during the Fisher campaign.

Dan Woodyatt during the Fisher campaign.

As for Such’s intentions, she says: “I don’t know yet.”

“I want to put my thinking cap on and work it out, but I want people right down south to know what they’re going to be missing.”

She said it wasn’t until well after the death at Daw Park of her husband that she realised the importance of strong palliative care services.

The one time Liberal minister – and parliamentary Speaker during Mike Rann’s premiership – had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in the frenetic days after the 2014 election, when he and fellow crossbencher Geoff Brock were left holding the balance of power. That was in March; he died in October.

“We were very, very lucky, although we didn’t realise it at the time,” she said.

“Not everybody’s going to experience that [palliative care].

“When the numbness, the grief numbness, starts to lessen, you realise everybody deserves the very best… I just think about the issue, and I get so angry. There are decent people who have got no idea what’s ahead of them – no sense of how well it can go in your final time – and I just don’t know what’s going to happen to them.”

Such was also stung by Snelling’s response when she called in to comment during an interview on FIVEaa last month, when she said the minister “just started to talk over me”.

Snelling said today: “I’ve got a lot of respect for Mrs Such and I think anyone who heard me talking to her during our last radio interview would agree that I treated her with nothing but courtesy.”

The minister reconfirmed that “all palliative care beds currently at Daw House will be moved to the brand new $185 million facility being built at Flinders”.

“Palliative care is changing and more people are choosing to spend their final days at home – meaning we need to provide those resources, rather than just beds in a hospice,” he said.

“This is based on contemporary models of palliative care, which focus on symptom management and giving people a choice to manage their final days.”

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