Dear PCT Members, sector colleagues and friends,

All political parties and independent candidates have now received Palliative Care Tasmania’s (PCT) written request for a public commitment to palliative care. We are yet to hear back from the major parties, and that is disappointing. While we welcome some of the other health commitments, where is palliative care?

Our request for the sector is really very simple. In 2024, this election, we want parties to match the 2021 election commitment of $21.5million for the next three years, to continue the work we have started.

The commitment we’re after is one that will ensure that all Tasmanians, regardless of their location or circumstances, have access to high-quality palliative and end-of-life care, and that our workforce is sufficiently supported to deliver that care.

A commitment of $21.5million over the next three years is just a little over $7million per year. To be honest, this should already be in the budget. This is to continue work already underway.

A public commitment will enable us to continue the progress we’ve made to deliver the vital services and programs our sector provides. Our sector has made up some valuable ground since 2021, but it’s imperative that we build on this momentum and re-fund the current programs to ensure the best outcomes for Tasmanians.

The commitment and subsequent investment in care is needed urgently. This was reiterated during Tuesday’s confronting PCT webinar. Aptly titled ‘The freight train ahead’, respected demographer and social commentator, Bernard Salt AM delivered some sobering facts and figures about Tasmania’s care needs in the next decade. In 2020 the number of people in Tasmania over 85 rose by 300. By 2033 this population will be increasing by 1600 people over 85 each year.

Bernard Salt said:

“Just because you’re over 85 does not mean that you need palliative care, but I think it’s fair to say that you’re ‘in the zone’.”

“We need to prepare for the coming surge, and this includes skilling up the workforce in palliative care.”

“This isn’t slowly stepping up. This is ratcheting up. There’s no saying ‘we didn’t know’.”

As Mr Salt’s number crunching has highlighted, there is an urgent need for immediate and continued investment to meet the current unmet demand and the changing demographic profile and health needs of Tasmanians who are older and sicker than any other state in Australia (ex NT). Equitable access to timely palliative care is essential to a high-performing and cost-efficient health system and a compassionate community.

After watching the webinar, one of our PCT members had this to say in her popular blog:

“We need to position palliative care as a core value of our society. We love the beach, a BBQ on the patio with mates, watching the footy, playing cricket in the backyard with the grandkids, and looking after one another during hard times. That’s our lifestyle. They’re our core values. Every one of us needs to think about whether our lifestyle should include compassionate care and palliative care.

“We know the train is coming, and we know how many passengers it’s transporting, but we don’t know how many people are waiting at the station to help them.

“Somebody is going to have to care of us when we age and start falling apart. We, our communities, and our governments, need to plan for it and allocate resources to it. And we need to start now.

Lisa Herbert, death-literacy advocate, author of The Bottom Drawer Book: the after death action plan.

In 2024, we are calling on an incoming Government and Parliament to demonstrate their commitment to address the needs of our sector. Our priorities are:

1) Sustain Key Palliative Care Projects Currently in Progress: ($2.5 million per year for the next 3 years)

  • Continue vital Department projects such as the Palliative Care Clinical Network program of works, Partners in Palliative Care initiatives, and After-Hours support/services for Specialist Palliative Care, work underway with pharmacists and paramedics statewide.
  • Support policy implementation initiatives of the Tasmanian Palliative and End of Life Policy Framework to ensure that palliative care services align with best practices and meet the needs of our community.

2) Invest in Palliative Care Workforce Development: ($3.5 million per year for the next 3 years)

  • Prioritise ongoing recruitment, training, and development for our dedicated palliative care workforce – both specialist and generalist. Their expertise is crucial in delivering quality end-of-life care to patients and their families.
  • Ongoing funding of the Comprehensive Palliative Care in Aged Care program in the delivery of specialist palliative care service support for people living in residential aged care facilities with palliative care needs.

3) Ensure Sustainable Funding for Palliative Care Tasmania: ($1.2 million per year for the next 3 years)

• Provide recurrent funding to Palliative Care Tasmania (beyond June 30,2025) to sustain long-term viability and effectiveness as the peak body for palliative care in Tasmania. Introduce five-year funding contracts to provide stability and continuity in a number of ongoing and impactful programs including sector education/training and community awareness to improve capacity, death & grief literacy among Tasmanians, fostering a better understanding of palliative care, early intervention, and advance care planning/directives.

• Support the following evidence based statewide programs outlined in our Budget Priority Submission and ready for implementation:

1. Support the expansion of Tasmania’s Learning Through Loss program to address grief and loss experienced by young people, the people that support them and the communities around them, ultimately preventing mental ill-health and promoting resilience. (+ $180,000)

2. Implement the Palliative and end of Life Care Navigator model to improve consumer and service outcomes, ensuring seamless access to palliative care services. (+$220,000)

3. Support the Ambulance Wish Program with seed funding enabling dying Tasmanians to fulfill a wish in the latter stages of their illness. This program brings comfort and joy to individuals during a challenging time. (+$150,000)

4. Deliver ‘Compassionate Communities’ as a fundamental aspect of a public health approach to palliative care, end-of-life care, and bereavement support. This initiative fosters a supportive environment for individuals facing life-limiting illnesses. (+$150,000)

Palliative Care Tasmania has more than 300 members committed to the issues of our sector. We have experienced an increase of 139% in professional and organisational financial members in the last 12 months, indicating a growing recognition of the importance of palliative care within our community. Our financial member organisations alone, represent over 10,000 healthcare workers, along with thousands of carers, volunteers, and community members and a 1000-strong online PalliHub community of workforce professionals.

A commitment to these initiatives will have a significant impact on the well-being of our community members facing palliative and end-of-life care needs. Our ask will ensure our capacity to meet the need and lay the foundations for improving Tasmanians’ health and wellbeing.

As Bernard Salt AM said, ‘we need to prepare now for a steady acceleration of the frail elderly population that will arrive, like a freight train, at the end of this decade’.

I encourage all PCT Members to join us in our efforts to make palliative care a priority for the incoming government. Please reach out if you have any questions. I will keep you all updated as we progress.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Venéy Hiller

CEO – Palliative Care Tasmania

Palliative Care Tasmania Election Commitment Update