Funding boost for end-of-life care

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Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is renowned for its life-changing comprehensive cancer care – and now the Sydney hospital has the resources to fill one of the few gaps in its treatment options.

The Camperdown-based private facility has received $2.9 million from the New South Wales Government to fund six dedicated palliative care beds along with specialist doctors and nurses.

It is part of nearly $83 million in extra funding the state is investing in end-of-life care over the next four years, on top of the $220 million already spent in the sector. 

“While it might appear to be a fraction of what is a significant health budget, it will make a real difference to people’s lives,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.

“This will be the most important announcement we make in this year’s budget because it provides the care and support, not just for inpatients but also for people at home in their end-of-life journeys.”

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is currently partnering with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to provide palliative care, but will now be able to bring all its services in-house.

Six existing ward beds will be funded for end-of-life patients, while the recruitment process for new staff has begun. 

“Funding means a great deal to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the patients here,” Chief Clinical Officer Professor Michael Boyer said. 

“We have strived to provide the very top level that we can of cancer care but the lack of inpatient beds here has meant there has been a gap in that care, and despite the tremendous efforts of our partners, it was a gap that we struggled to close.

“So we are enormously grateful for the component of this announcement that will come to COBL to allow us to close that gap, to provide that sort of care here for patients who choose to be here and choose to have their acute palliative care needs met in a hospital setting.”

Patients like Jack Carnegie, who is living with advanced cancer, can look forward to receiving all their palliative care at the Lifehouse.

He has been a patient there for three years, but recently his oncologist decided to end his chemotherapy as it was no longer working.

“I had no idea what palliative care was – I think I had the impression that a lot of people have, that you’re wrapped up in a blanket on a bed somewhere, but actually my life is quite good,” he said. 

“I was out yesterday getting chains and ropes for a sculpture I’m working on. Generally I’m leading what I think is a fairly normal life.”

His wife Jane added: “We’re pleased a palliative care unit will come here. Staying at Lifehouse with all our friends and the expert care we have is a big bonus.” 

Prof Boyer said Lifehouse’s funding will also have benefits for the health system overall, as it will help relieve the burden on emergency departments.

“As part of this program we will be setting up 24-hour support lines for patients. It will be a rapid-access pathway so patients that require hospital admission can come directly to hospital,” he explained. 

“It’s never a good thing for a known chronic-care patient to end up in an emergency department, and by doing this right we can avoid that situation. 

“That helps the patient that’s involved, but it also helps the emergency department by freeing up capacity to deal with other patients. This will also build capacity on this campus and assist with provision of care for patients with other care needs.” 

Read more: Challenging perceptions of palliative care

Read more: Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer patients ‘live longer’

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