Cancer Council joins local advocates in campaign for more palliative care services

CONCERTED EFFORT: Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson, local advocate Lucy Haslam and Cancer Council representative Dimity Betts. Photo: Jacob McArthur

CONCERTED EFFORT: Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson, local advocate Lucy Haslam and Cancer Council representative Dimity Betts. Photo: Jacob McArthur

TAMWORTH’s need for boosted palliative care services has come to a head as local advocates and politicians spearhead the fight.

The local Cancer Council branch has helped to renew the push with a petition calling on minister Jillian Skinner to “end the shortage of specialist palliative care services across the state”.

Cancer Council has identified a need for 10 specialist physicians and 129 palliative nurses across the state.

Tamworth advocates Mitch Williams and Lucy Haslam have seen the “dire need” for a bigger palliative workforce firsthand, losing loved ones to cancer.

“I made a promise to mum who died at the end of last year and wanted to be palliated at home and we saw the inadequacies of the system,” Mr Williams said.

“The lack of support through the health system it made it awfully hard on mum and those last couple of months.”

He said there needed to be a significant increase in palliation staff in Tamworth alone.

“We need at least one palliative care physician full time based in Tamworth and four to five palliative care nurses,” he said.

“At the moment, we have one community based palliation nurse and he’s looking after 65,000 people.”

Mr Williams, Mrs Haslam and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson will meet with Hunter New England Health (HNEH) chief executive officer Michael DiRienzo on December 20, to discuss the issues in Tamworth.

Lucy Haslam said the meeting would allow the groups to compare figures relating the palliative care in the local health district.

“The Cancer Council have their numbers, and they’ve done a fair bit of research in coming to the targets they have set,” Mrs Haslam said.

“There are figures available out of HNEH which have been more difficult to get.

A NSW Health spokesperson said the “number of specialist medical and nursing staff alone is not necessarily a good measure of the extent to which needs of people who are dying and their families and carers a met”. The spokesperson said the NSW government had invested “at least $86 million in specialist palliative care services”.

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