Otago Community Hospice Extends its Expertise to Primary Sector

Otago Community Hospice provides teaching and clinical placements for Otago Polytechnic nursing...
Otago Community Hospice provides teaching and clinical placements for Otago Polytechnic nursing school.
Community Care Coordinator for South Otago, Marc Sescon, mentors a nursing student.
Community Care Coordinator for South Otago, Marc Sescon, mentors a nursing student.
Kowhai Programme Coordinator Denise van Aalst (on left) delivers palliative education for carers...
Kowhai Programme Coordinator Denise van Aalst (on left) delivers palliative education for carers around Otago region

With palliative care needs in New Zealand forecast to increase by roughly 50% over the next 15-20 years*, Otago Community Hospice is focused on providing more support to the primary healthcare sector.

Hospice Medical Director Dr David Butler describes the support of those delivering primary palliative care as a vital part of the Hospice’s organisational mission.

‘‘Our palliative care expertise is available for all those working in primary health care, and if someone is caring for a patient with terminal illness - even if that patient is not receiving our services - and needs palliative advice, then our Hospice team can provide that support.’’

Community Care Coordinator Sue Walton. PHOTO: SHARRON BENNETT
Community Care Coordinator Sue Walton. PHOTO: SHARRON BENNETT
While roughly one third of people who die in New Zealand will receive direct specialist hospice care, the majority of people will die extremely well cared for by health care providers who are not palliative care specialists.

However, Dr Butler says there is evidence, and experience strongly suggests, that the availability of specialist palliative care to advise and assist those ‘‘front-line’’ doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers taking care of patients with terminal illnesses can provide an added level of assurance that patients will be well cared for.

‘‘With the ageing population and an increased level of medical complexity amongst that ageing population, in combination with the relative shortage of palliative care specialists and nurses, increasing demands are likely to fall disproportionately on our primary care colleagues. We want to do what we can to support them.’’

This support comes from all disciplines of the Hospice: from the community care team who are in the community daily sharing their knowledge, to the inpatient unit nurses and doctors available on a 24/7 helpline, and our multi-disciplinary palliative specialists who travel the region doing education sessions.

‘‘One way to lessen this increasing demand is to train and support the greater care community in core palliative care principles like symptom management, handling challenging goals of care discussions, identification of emotional distress etc.’’

‘‘We have a long-standing educational outreach plan which plays a role in raising the palliative skills of those training to be healthcare professionals and those already in the sector.

‘‘Our Aged Residential Care (ARC) service is an excellent example of how we can give support to those providing primary palliative care. This highly skilled team of senior doctors and nurses has a primary focus around education of staff and ‘‘walking alongside’’  teams in aged care facilities - making a difference to large numbers of patients not just those referred to our service,’’ says Dr Butler.

‘‘It’s innovations like ARC, and Hospice staff’s continuing  mission to spread their palliative care knowledge throughout Otago's primary care sector, which will stand our community in good stead for the future.’’

(* McLeod, Palliative Care Council of NZ, Statistics New Zealand: Historic Estimates and National Population Projections – 2014 - 2068)

Otago Community Hospice has around 750 patients receiving services in any one year, with only 20% of  patients requiring an admission to the Hospice inpatient unit for acute and complex management.

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