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Libs promise to make at-home palliative care a 24/7 service

Politics

The Liberal Party has pledged a $16 million funding boost for palliative care outreach services that currently only operate during business hours.

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The commitment to spend $4 million in each of the next four years would extend palliative care outreach services that only operate during business hours to make them into 24/7 services.

Palliative Care South Australia CEO Tracey Watters told InDaily she was pleased with the commitment, but wanted to see political parties fund the organisation’s entire election manifesto – at a cost of almost $100 million, which she said would easily pay for itself in savings made from reduced hospital visits.

Liberal leader Stephen Marshall told reporters this morning better end-of-life care in the home would remove pressure on hospital beds.

“Palliative care in the home keeps patients more comfortable, they’re more supported by their families and it can actually have very positive effects on alleviating the bed block that we currently have in our major teaching hospitals,” Marshall said.

“Too often in South Australia, families feel that they are not being supported, and so hospitalisation or institutionalisation is the only option.

“This is often not the best outcome.”

The plan relies on costings from Palliative Care SA and fulfils one of that organisation’s election manifesto requests.

Marshall said that South Australia had, “at one point, led the nation in terms of palliative care”.

“But now we’ve become, as in so many areas, the laggard state.

“Most jurisdictions say that good quality palliative care will offset very expensive and often very unnecessary hospitalisation.”

He added that a Liberal Government would conduct an assessment of needs across the state and develop a new model of care for palliative services within its first two years.

Watters said she hoped the assessment would convince a future Liberal Government, if it wins the election, to take up the rest of its policies.

In addition to the $16 million outreach services boost the Liberals pledged today, Palliative Care SA wants $24 million spent over the same period to integrate palliative care into chronic disease clinics, $56 million to give more patients access to palliative care and $1.6 million for an information and awareness campaign.

According to the election manifesto, South Australia only provides access to palliative care for patients who have complex or intractable care needs, whereas international evidence suggests palliative care is required between a “straightforward and predictable” stage of care and an “intermediate and unpredictable” stage.

“We’re very pleased (by the Liberal’s policy commitment today, but) it would have been lovely if they were committing to the full suite of measures,” Watters told InDaily.

She said the organisation’s highest priority was the $56 million ask to give more patients access to palliative care in South Australia.

“We’ve spent no money in the past decade preparing the (medical) workforce who are expected to care for (dying) patients … or to even recognise dying,” she said.

Last month, SA Best Leader Nick Xenophon came under fire for claiming that his party’s palliative care policy – costing nearly $100 million over four years, which is the value of Palliative Care SA’s entire election manifesto ask – would simply pay for itself by reducing the need for hospital visits.

 

But Watters said Xenophon was “absolutely right” and that she was confident the entire manifesto would pay for itself.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that $24.5 million (a year) is an investment in cost savings.”

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