Call for more end of life support

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

The state government has announced a $2.5 million boost for palliative care in the South West, but Busselton's local service provider fears five additional full-time staff aren't going to cut it.

The funding, announced on Thursday, October 10, will be allocated over the next four years by the state's country health service and allows regions access to specialist district palliative care teams, including nursing, medical and aboriginal health workers.

According to the state government, the investment will see between 11.45 and 16.9 full-time care staff in each of the regions to bring regional WA in line with the Level 3 palliative care services available in the metropolitan area - offering around the clock access to a clinical nurse.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the funding was designed to enhance community-based support across the state and ease the burden on travelling and discomfort for regional patients.

The WA Country Health Service confirmed it had 235 palliative care patients in the South West, with 11 staff employed throughout Bunbury, Greater Bunbury, Warren and Blackwood and Wellington to provide end of life services.

The Busselton-Dunsborough Mail understands that where the new staff will be based and how they will be deployed is yet to be determined.

Busselton Hospice Care Inc formed 30-years-ago, established to address the palliative care needs of the community and provide bereavement support.

Since its inception, the organisation has been supported solely by the South West community and its 100 trained volunteers - dedicated to supporting the Country Health Services staff at the centre.

Busselton Hospice board member Helen Walker said while the centre was very fortunate to have dedicated volunteers to provide one-on-one support to patients, the organisation needed more clinical staff to cover the vast area between Busselton and Augusta.

"That's the biggest issue at the moment - we very much need more dedicated palliative care staff," she said.

"There is a perception that we have very good services, and we do, but it's not enough to cater for the South West's aging demographic.

"Compared to some of the other regions, it appears that we've done better, but, when you look at the population we're supporting, I still think an additional 5.9 isn't going to cut it.

"I'd like to see more dedicated palliative care staff, specialist care and better access to the services throughout the region so that people in the Augusta Margaret River region have access, too.

"They're looking at Telehealth services, and while that's good, when you look at the clientele, it's not a cultural medium for those elderly and remote.

"That's why I think we need more people on the ground."

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam welcomed the news, but echoed Mrs Walker's sentiments, saying she was hopeful that Busselton Hospice would be allocated a dedicated specialist and additional funding.

"I have been advocating on behalf of Coastal Palliative Care who provide vital support to patients from Busselton to Margaret River," she said.

"While there are a significant number of volunteers, and two clinical staff it is under pressure and urgently needs more support."

In the future, Mrs Walker said the organisation was eager to more support to extend its service to people in their own homes.

"The reality is that 95 per cent of the time, when someone is ill, they spent that time in their home," she said.

"We're completely reliant on our local community funding to do this.

"Over many years, the community has been very supportive.

"We would absolutely love if we got a bit of that [state government] funding for our community service.

"We have an expectation that the community will continue to support us, but we've done it all without government funding up until now."