LAKE Macquarie residents living south of the Fennell Bay bridge do not receive the same 24-hour palliative care services as their northern neighbours, and instead have to rely on a telephone service for care outside of business hours.
Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper revealed in parliament on Tuesday that he had been advised by the government that residents in highly populated areas like Toronto and Morisset do not have access to the same 24-hour care as other parts of Lake Macquarie.
Mr Piper read out advice he’d received from new health minister Brad Hazzard’s office that the Westlakes Community Health Service – which operates south of Fennell Bay and Swansea down to Wyee – provides a “24-hour on-call service to provide advice and support to patients” but that after business hours that service was provided by telephone.
Mr Piper said the difference in service created a “them and us” situation in Lake Macquarie.
“In my electorate of Lake Macquarie I fear that services are actually being eroded rather than promoted and expanded,” he said.
It comes after the Newcastle Herald reported last week fears that after-hours palliative care visits by the Calvary Mater Hospital could be at risk of being replaced by a telephone hotline because of perceived safety risks from the after-hours home visits service.
Hunter New England Health has not ruled out making changes to the service, and Mr Piper told the parliament he’d previously met with Cancer Council officials who had been told there were “OH&S issues” related to the service.
However Mr Piper said he’d spoken to one nurse who in 22 years had only seen one “minor assault”.
“This invaluable service not only needs to be maintained and supported, it needs to be extended,” Mr Piper said.
The Herald has previously reported that Hunter hospitals were “badly under-resourced” to provide adequate end-of-life and palliative care, as well as calls for 24 hour services to be extended to Maitland.