A new report showing a massive increase in the number of Australians accessing palliative care in hospitals again underlines what health and aged care providers have been saying for years: End-of-life care needs funding support as part of ongoing health and aged care reform.
The report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare describes an increase in hospital palliative care admissions of 56 per cent in the 10 years until 2008-09, equating to 650,000 patient days in 2008-09. Palliative care recipients average stays of 12.5 days, compared with three days for other hospital admissions.
Catholic Health Australia CEO Martin Laverty said those who care for people in their final days have long been pushing for more funding – and more options – for palliative care provision.
“After advice from providers for years about the need for the expansion of palliative care services outside hospitals, Governments have now received further evidence – if it needed any – that it makes sense to provide new investment in end-of-life care,” he said.
“We’ve seen evidence that in recent years possibly as many as two in three people who could benefit from palliative care miss out for differing reasons: services are either overburdened or not available, or people simply are not aware of the opportunity to access tailored care.
“Some older people are going to hospitals to receive palliative care when they could be better cared for at home or in an aged care service. A public hospital bed can cost taxpayers up to three to four times more per day to operate than an aged care bed, where very often older people would be better off.
“Increasing funding for residential aged care facilities, where palliative care can be delivered more appropriately for many older people, should be a priority for all Governments, as part of a strategy to improve both quality of care for people in the final stages of their lives and to take pressure of public hospital beds.”
Mr Laverty said the Productivity Commission’s report into aged care reform has proposed residential and community aged care providers receive increased payments for delivering palliative and end-of-life care.
“It’s not just the providers of services calling for change; the Productivity Commission brought together some of the country’s best policy thinkers to look at how best to care for older Australians, and they saw a glaring need as well.
“Additional investment into aged care service provision will mean more care services for people needing palliative care, which in time will help free up public hospital beds.”