State Government needs to act on palliative care funding to provide a 24-hour service in Maitland and Dungog

The plea to the Baird Government to fund a 24-hour palliative care service for the state’s dying is nothing new.

Fiona Murphy

Fiona Murphy

In fact last week marked the fourth time the issue had been debated in NSW Parliament. How many more debates do we need to have?

The fact is that most terminally ill people choose to die at home. To be at peace in their own environment, surrounded by their loved ones during their last days of life. This is all Rutherford woman Fiona Murphy wanted. The family home became a makeshift hospice, palliative care nurses administering pain relief during office hours.

At night, there were no options for Mrs Murphy or the 79 other palliative care patients across Maitland and Dungog, to receive medical attention. The palliative care cuts do not stop in Maitland and Dungog. It is a state issue and one that former palliative care doctor and now campaigner Yvonne McMaster is fast bringing to the public’s attention. She has more than 83,000 signatures on a petition lobbying the government for more funding. Four debates and 83,000 signatures. How much more convincing does it take?

The Murphy family has joined Dr McMaster in her crusade and have delivered petitions to Maitland and Coalfields businesses.

Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison told parliament last week that palliative care is one of the most important yet unrecognised areas of health care. She shared Mrs Murphy’s story.

The debate started with Health Minister Jillian Skinner saying the government is committed to ensuring that NSW residents receive appropriate care meeting their palliative and end of life care needs. She outlined what had already been done by her government, especially the end of life care packages which have helped about 5000 people over three years, a drop in the bucket in NSW which has an annual death rate of 47,000. Dr McMaster said the debate heard excellent and heart-felt speeches from Labor members who were supportive of the 83,335 petitioners’ demands, namely for better resourcing of the specialist palliative care workforce.

But it was Mrs Murphy’s daughter Amanda who best summed up the debate. "It's great the debate has been ongoing but politicians need to give the issue much more than just lip service. My family will continue to fight until we win funding for 24-hour care."

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