Ms WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON
Palliative Care Tasmania provides education for people preparing for the death of a loved one and training services for the aged care sector. The four-year Commonwealth funding for this organisation ended in June. The northern office has closed. By the end of September, this essential service will shut its doors. This is a disaster for Tasmanians. As well, the funding for Hospice at Home, which supports people to die in their own place, finishes completely in just 10 months' time. At that time the estimate is that 300-400 dying Tasmanians will be left unsupported and will have to go into the public health system. What is your plan for palliative care in Tasmania? How are you going to support the 70 per cent of Tasmanians who want to die at home?
Madam Speaker, that is an important question and I thank the member for asking it. There is a range of matters that have been raised in the question and all of them are important and worthy of further exploration. First, the Better Access to Palliative Care Program, which was a federally funded initiative under the NPA, has expired. I understand that the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team is discussing the matter with federal Health minister Sussan Ley, as am I.
Second, the member asked about Hospice at Home. That sustaining agreement has also expired; however, I understand the Commonwealth has given permission for unspent funds to be rolled out which provides an additional, I believe, 12 months continuation for that program. The Tasmanian Government will continue to advocate for that exceptional program, particularly in the way it provides outreach care into people's homes in the community.
Finally, on the matter of palliative care, the Government will be having more to say about the way in which we provide a framework and greater community support in this area. It is a vital area. Together with the CEO of the Tasmanian Health Service, I visited all regions of Tasmania last week and we had open conversations. It was our fourth such open conversation with the community in a way that has never been done before between a minister and the health bosses and direct engagement with the community. This was a theme that emerged, so I welcome the question.
This Government has a strong commitment to providing not just traditional services in this area at high quality - for example, inpatient services - but we believe we can continue to provide new and better options and innovations in care, recognising that most people when asked indicate that if it can be provided safely, their choice would be to die at home or in the community. We inherited a situation where the palliative care framework had run out and it was out-of-date. We are renewing it and we will have more to say in the near future.