The NSW government’s announcement of an additional $100 million for palliative care services across the state will benefit patients navigating the last stages of life in Lithgow, says Dr Alan Oloffs, the director of supportive and palliative care at Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.
“We’re looking forward to using the funds to improve services to our community, including adding two more palliative care nurses to our service,” he said.
The package also includes 300 scholarships across the state specifically for rural and regional staff to enhance their palliative care skills.
“We hope that our enhanced service will further improve access for our clients including in regional and rural areas of the Local Health District,” Dr Oloffs said.
“We know that people living in regional areas like Lithgow face the challenge of a greater distance to travel to receive specialist care in hospital.”
Lithgow residents currently cannot access palliative care at the local hospital. Instead palliative patients are admitted to Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, Nepean or Springwood services. Palliative care patients can only remain at home if there are one or two people who can provide full time care.
The new package and recent expansions to supports for people dying at home in the Blue Mountains region will hopefully increase choice and quality of care for Lithgow residents.
“Care in the home is supported by the community nurse, the specialist nurse and more recently, by additional nursing provided by not-for-profit organisation Silver Chain, with the PEACH program,” Dr Olaf said.
The Palliative Care Home Support Package (PEACH) provides Lithgow residents with after-hour nurses at home in the last weeks of their life. Another end-of-life care service, the Blue Mountains Palliative Support Service expanded to Lithgow in 2013.
“The main support we give is respite to the carers and emotional and practical support for the families,” volunteer coordinator Katrina Simmons said.
Despite the tyranny of distance, Ms Simmons, said Lithgow residents tend to receive palliative care in hospital.
“The trend in Lithgow is to come into hospital to die,” she said.
“I think people aren’t aware they can die at home and that there are systems in place to support that.”