Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Palliative Care

The Hon. B.R. HOOD (15:30): Today, I rise to speak about palliative care in our regions and of the vital work of the Mount Gambier In Home Hospice Care service. Mount Gambier In Home Hospice Care was established in 2020 with funding from the South Australian Palliative Care Grants Program with support from the Mount Gambier Private Hospital and the guidance of the Warrnambool and District Community Hospice.

In Home Hospice Care is committed to a philosophy of care that recognises the end-of-life issues concerned with death, dying, palliative care, grief and loss that affect us all and that are everyone's responsibility. Before its establishment, palliative care in Mount Gambier was only available from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. This vital new service has plugged those gaps and offers round-the-clock assistance to terminally ill patients by specially trained volunteers.

Most of those who require hospice care, when thinking about how they want to spend the final days and weeks of their life, would prefer to be cared for at home rather than in a medical setting. In Home Hospice Care can cater to these wishes by working closely with health professionals to provide patients and their families with practical and emotional support. It is a well-rounded, holistic type of care that these volunteers provide as patients face their life-limiting illness. Without the initial grant supplied by the former state government and from donations from groups like the Masonic Charities Trust, the Mount Gambier and Grant councils, WISE Employment and the Mount Gambier Lions Club, this free service would simply not exist.

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a charity afternoon tea, organised by local fundraising legend Lois Bayre, in support of In Home Hospice Care. The 250-strong crowd shared delicious scones and tea, while hearing inspiring and deeply personal stories from In Home Hospice Care Chairperson Maureen Klintberg, and Shyla Wills, CEO of Palliative Care South Australia. Lois and her team raised over $10,000 for the organisation, and I thank Lois for her tireless fundraising efforts over many years.

For an organisation with no ongoing funding source, In Home Hospice Care has achieved remarkable results in its short two years. The service's annual costs are approximately $110,000, not considering their growth plan over the next three years. Twenty-one families have received support since its inception, and they have employed two part-time staff to work alongside their 33-person strong and active volunteer base.

They have identified a growing need, both within and beyond their current geographical reach, and their goal is to ensure services are available for all who need them. To achieve this, they plan to expand their services to the Mount Gambier District Health Service, residential care homes and into the wider geographical area that includes Penola, Millicent and Naracoorte.

In Home Hospice Care ought to be viewed as an essential part of an integrated home-based palliative care service that supports individuals, families and caregivers outside institutional care settings. Empowering community-level grassroots services like this will ensure high-quality and holistic care for those who need it and also reduce emergency department presentations and free up hospital resources.

KPMG and Palliative Care Australia's 2020 report found that some home-based palliative care services are twice as likely to fulfil an individual's wishes to die at home while reducing ED presentations by between 2 and 13 per cent, resulting in less time spent in hospital. This means significant financial and functional savings exist for SA Health services, including reducing the burden on our ambulance system and wider health workforce.

For these salient reasons, I echo the calls of our shadow minister for regional health, Penny Pratt, and my colleague the Hon. Nicola Centofanti, who have been calling on the health minister to review his decision not to fund this service going forward. The steady hands of chairperson Maureen Klintberg and hospice manager Sandi Elliot have ensured they can utilise the organisation's reserve funds until the end of May, and thanks to a life-saving Hospital Research Foundation grant and with community donations increasing, the Mount Gambier In Home Hospice Care service can continue, but only until December 2023.

Maureen, Sandi and the team of dedicated staff and volunteers are owed a debt of gratitude for their tireless advocacy and ongoing commitment to improving end-of-life care for the South-East community. Next week is National Palliative Care Service Week, a chance for us all to celebrate and acknowledge the need for quality palliative care services in our communities. The In Home Hospice Care has proved itself as a trusted, essential, free service for those who are willing to live and to die well in the South-East and they desperately need this government's support.