Palliative care staff shortage in NSW sparks campaign.

Care campaign: Jennifer Creal with Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen and the new book, Our Stories.

Care campaign: Jennifer Creal with Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen and the new book, Our Stories.

HUNTER residents have shared their experiences of palliative care in a bid to put an end to the shortage of specialists services across the state.

The Cancer Council says NSW needs 10 more full time specialist palliative care physicians, at a minimum, to be brought in line with national palliative care recommendations. 

On Tuesday, Cancer Council NSW launched its I Care For Palliative Care campaign along with a book, called Our Stories, which includes the personal accounts of Hunter people who used or needed palliative care services for their loved ones.

Dungog resident Jennifer Creal contributed to the book, after discovering palliative care services were lacking when her late husband Christopher finished his active cancer treatment in 2013.

After surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, his oncologist had suggested they choose quality of life over quantity when the treatment was not working.

“We were referred to the local palliative care team, which was 40 minutes away from the farm where we lived, and unfortunately, even though the will was there, they were so over worked they weren’t able to assess him,” Mrs Creal said.

“At the end of two weeks, I couldn’t control his pain at home anymore and our GP admitted him to the palliative care unit at our wonderful little hospital in Dungog. I basically lived there until he died about seven days after he was admitted.

“If I’d have had access or support from a palliative care team to manage his pain I would have been able to have him comfortably at home, and he could have had his family, his grandchildren, his family, and his dog around him, and we would have all liked that.”

The book was presented to local Members of Parliament on Tuesday, and sent to NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard.

“We’re a long way behind the other states in palliative care on a populational basis,” Mrs Creal said.

“We’re wanting another 129 nurses, and another 10 palliative care doctors, to bring us up to the average of all the other states.

“It is a huge gap.”

Mrs Creal said access to specialist palliative care meant people with terminal illness could keep doing the things they love for as long as possible, and that families could make the most of the time they had left.

The Cancer Council is calling on people to support the I Care for Palliative Care campaign by signing the pledge for Minister Hazzard to end the palliative care shortage via www.canact.com.au/palliative_care_pledge.

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