The National Rural Health Alliance welcomes the recently-released Senate Community Affairs Committee report on palliative care in Australia. If and when implemented, the Committee’s recommendations will be an important step towards improved end of life care for families in rural and remote Australia.
Supporting quality of life for people near the end of their life is an important part of health service provision in rural and remote communities, as elsewhere. However there are some significant logistical and workforce challenges in rural areas, with specialised staff not available locally and unit costs being higher than in closely-settled metropolitan areas.
The means need to be found for rural health professionals and their patients to have ready access to specialised advice, equipment and practical suggestions as back-up to local approaches to palliative care. Better connectivity and eHealth, professional training and support, and patients’ travel schemes can all help in this regard.
One of the Senate Committee’s recommendations is about providing a greater amount of timely and easily accessible information to patients, carers and families. The Alliance is contributing to this with a new Fact Sheet produced in collaboration with Palliative Care Australia, available at www.ruralhealth.org.au
As the report says, Medicare Locals have an important part to play in integrating both general and specialist palliative care services with other aspects of local primary care. Over half the Medicare Locals cover extensive rural populations.
Culturally safe care when addressing end of life needs is an essential part of rural palliative care when dealing with diverse social groups, and is especially important given the higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in rural and remote areas. The Alliance welcomes the Committee’s endorsement of Palliative Care Australia’s recommendation that cultural training about palliative care be part of the core curricula for health care workers providing services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and that these topics also be included in the curricula for the appropriate Aboriginal health worker certificates.
Also welcome is the recommendation that the Australian Government increase funding to palliative care programs for Indigenous communities in rural and remote areas, with a particular emphasis on return to country.
Dr Lesley Barclay - Chair: 0412 282 801
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660