Despite how advanced our health care system has become, 70% of Australians will die each year without access to Palliative Care.
15,000 people died in Western Australia in 2020. 75 percent of all those deaths were predictable, yet more than 11,000 people died without any integration with a palliative care service. The number of deaths in Australia will double in the next twenty years. Are we going to allow 22,000 to die without any palliative care input?
We live in a first world country with first world access to the best health care in the world. We are fortunate to have access to life prolonging treatments in the face of life limiting diseases. Our population is living longer as a result. Living longer with more complex medical, social and psychological conditions.
The Palliative Care Team at St John of God Subiaco Hospital offers a contemporary, progressive and innovative approach to caring for patients and their families at the end of life. The team recognises that partnering with patients will ensure their best outcomes. Palliative care is much more than ‘turning up the morphine in the last days of life’. Current knowledge of complex symptom management, innovative thinking and planning that recognises the individuality of each patient’s circumstance, skilled communication that considers health literacy, trauma, grief and declining health are key elements of the practise of modern palliative care.
So what can we do at St John of God Subiaco Hospital to improve end-of-life care for our patients? As a community of health care providers, we can start by talking about dying. We must let go of the tension and the denial that obstructs the best care at the end of life. We must accept the inevitability of death for those that face it and share our knowledge, skill and compassion during these challenging times. We must respect patient choice and ensure they have access to information about their health, in a manner that they understand.
We offer treatment to prolong life and support patients and their families when treatment becomes futile. We offer a shared approach to decision-making that is aligned with patient and family goals and we always care.
The earlier we get on board the better.
Image: Palliative care team members