THE last thing a palliative care patient needs is bad news.
And that’s the way things were looking last Thursday at the annual general meeting of the Gippsland Southern Health Service.
It was revealed at the meeting that annual funding of $1 million, to pay for the work of a specialist palliative care consulting team, helping clients in need in South Gippsland and Bass Coast, was to end on Thursday, December 31, 2015.
It was an all-too-familiar refrain – government funding being phased out and no explanation about what was to happen next.
Members of the specialist palliative care consulting team, who made a presentation at the AGM, didn’t know their future post-December 2015.
They included Dr Aisling Griffin, a Senior Medical Officer in Palliative Medicine at Peninsula Health; Anne Saville, a Mental Health Social Worker at Peninsula Health and Mary Ross-Heazlewood, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Palliative Care at Gippsland Southern Health Service.
Only Ms Ross-Heazlewood could say her work with local palliative care clients in their homes, at local hospitals and in aged care would continue but not necessarily with funding for the specialist support.
Certainly not at the same level without that support.
Her CEO at Gippsland Southern, Mark Johnson, was also at a loss to say what would happen next.
No one at the Gippsland Region Palliative Care Consortium, responsible for delivering on the government’s palliative care policy in Gippsland was available for comment.
The Gippsland Southern officials could only say that responsibility for on-going specialist support in the South Gippsland and Bass Coast sub-region might be going to Latrobe Regional Hospital in Traralgon.
“We don’t know what will happen after that,” Ms Ross-Heazlewood said.
“At the moment the specialist support we receive, not only from Dr Griffin and Anne Saville, but also from the head of the team Dr Brian McDonald, Dr Melanie Benson and others comes from Peninsula Health.
“It is a tremendous resource, not only for us, but also for the clients. They come with us and visit them in their homes or at the hospital.
“Everyone is different and everyone requires a different model of care. What they do is essential to the high quality of this service.
“The money may have gone to LRH – Latrobe Regional Hospital but we haven’t heard.”
Clearly they should have. You can’t expect such highly qualified people to stand by twiddling their thumbs.
While they’ve waited for months to hear about the future of palliative care services locally, the Sentinel-Times got the following response from Latrobe Regional on Friday:
“Visits by palliative care specialists from Monash Health, Peninsula Health and Calvary Health Care have been coordinated by the Gippsland Region Palliative Care Consortium since 2007.
“Specialist palliative care consultancy services will gradually move to a Gippsland-wide model and be overseen by Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH).
“LRH is developing a new model of care to be rolled out across the region from January 1, 2016. The rollout will initially take in the East, Central and West Gippsland communities.
“South Gippsland and Bass Coast residents requiring specialist palliative care will continue to receive services through Peninsula Health for the next 12 months.”
Latrobe Regional Hospital Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Clinical Services, Amanda Cameron said negotiations are underway with Peninsula Health to ensure patients have access to specialist consultants and quality care while the transition to a new service takes place.
So, as it turns out it’s good news, not bad for palliative care patients, their carers and friends – the same service will be continuing.
But who knew?
It may be that the funding source for those specialist support services is yet to be worked out.
The ‘Sentinel-Times’ also contacted the Hon Jill Hennessy for a statement.
The role of the Gippsland Region Palliative Care Consortium, chaired by Vicki Farthing, Director of Nursing at GSHS is to help deliver and facilitate the Victorian Government’s current policy, ‘Strengthening palliative care: Policy and strategic directions 2011-2015’ across the Gippsland region. The policy identifies seven strategic directions including informing and involving carers and clients, working together to ensure people die in their place of choice, providing specialist care when and where it is needed and ensuring support from communities.
Member services include: Bairnsdale Regional Health Service (BRHS), Bass Coast Health (BCH), Central Gippsland Health Service (CGHS), Gippsland Southern Health Service (GSHS), Koo Wee Rup Regional Health Service (KRHS), Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH), South Gippsland Hospital (SGH), West Gippsland Healthcare Group (WGHG) and the Yarram and District Health Service (YDHS)