More options for palliative care patients

Palliative care patients and their families now have more options for end of life care, thanks to collaboration between NSW Ambulance and two of southern NSW’s largest health agencies.

Under the new protocol developed in conjunction with Southern NSW Medicare Local (SNSWML) and the NSW Local Health District (NSWLHD), paramedics will be able to treat palliative care patients in their own home on the instructions of their GP, rather than transferring them to hospital.

Eden Ambulance station manager Steve Marks said the guidelines allow for a more personal approach, and give the family more privacy at a difficult time.

“It’s been a long time coming, and it makes it much better for both us as paramedics, and the patient and their family,” Mr Marks said.

“If we get a call and arrive knowing that a plan is in place, for example a ‘do not resuscitate’ order, we are able to respect their wishes.

“If we get there and there is no paperwork in place, the onus is on us and we are obliged to resuscitate the patient and transport them to hospital.

“The last thing we want is to go against their wishes if that’s not what they want because it’s a very personal thing when someone reaches that stage, and this allows them to make that decision.”

Currently, 51 per cent of palliative care patients die in a hospital setting, but research shows that 76 per cent would prefer to die in their own homes.

The partnership began when SNSWML became aware of a NSW Ambulance authorised palliative care plan, designed to improve after-hours health services for southern NSW communities.

Together they developed guidelines for GPs and brochures for palliative care patients, which have now been distributed across the region.

NSW Ambulance southern regional clinic support manager Mark Gibbs said utilising the resources and networks of the Medicare Local to help promote the plan is proving beneficial.

“The partnership with the Medicare Local has allowed us to get the plan where it’s needed: in the hands of GPs and palliative care patients,” he said.

“NSW Ambulance attends more palliative care patients per year than any single Local Health District in the State.

“The authorised care protocol was introduced by NSW Ambulance to support paramedic decision-making in meeting the needs of individual patients with specific medical conditions.”

SNSWML CEO Kathryn Stonestreet said the plan is already producing the desired results and is starting to blaze a trail.

“I’m excited to say that the word is spreading beyond our region,” she said.

“Other Medicare Locals already want to know how they can get involved, and my hope is that we can see this fantastic model available far and wide.”

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