National Palliative Care Week 2020 – Connecting more regional people in need with the Riverina Palliative Care Alliance
Robin Haberecht, General Manager | Calvary Riverina
This year’s National Palliative Care Week theme is “Palliative Care: It’s more than you think.” What is something you tell people about palliative care that surprises them?
Palliative care is not only for people who are at the end of life. It is about supporting people with a life limiting illness to have the best possible quality of life.
People may come in and out of inpatient palliative care many times. Just because you are receiving palliative care does not mean that you are going to die today, tomorrow, or next week. It means that palliative care can offer value in relieving symptoms connected with your life limiting illness.
Tell us about the Palliative Care Alliance in the Riverina, NSW – Calvary’s first palliative and end of life care alliance. How does the Alliance work to connect more people with a variety of palliative care and end of life care services, appropriate to their need?
The Palliative Care Alliance is a partnership of the four main service providers in the Riverina regional area, being: Calvary Riverina, Murrumbidgee Local Health District, Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network and the Forrest Centre Residential Aged Care and Hospice.
The Alliance is represented by a high level executive of the four organisations and together we strategically plan to ensure that primary, community, inpatient and hospice palliative care services continue to function in an integrated capacity to provide the best possible support and continuity of care to the people of the Riverina.
The Alliance has been established since 2013, and has overseen the continual growth of palliative care services.
Calvary Riverina Hospital provides Wagga and the wider Riverina with a variety of palliative and end of life care services. Has the COVID-19 pandemic meant there has been a need to expand these services?
The services haven’t increased because of COVID-19, however the service need has been increasing significantly since the formation of the Alliance.
Due to the integrated approach, access to services and choice of services have improved greatly. The service available to patients and their families/carers has become more diverse and accessible.
Palliative and End of Life Care is known for being able to adapt to challenge with creativity and compassion. Can you reflect on an instance where you have had to adapt the way you provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The physical distancing has presented some challenges for patients and their families. This has require increased use of social media and video call or face time access to enable patients to remain connected to family and friends.
All patients are assessed on a case-by-case basis, and considerations are made for more family contact if they are nearing end of life.
What is something you have learned about the people receiving care, their loved ones, your colleagues or yourself, when thinking about how palliative and end of life care is provided during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our staff, partners, patients and their loved ones are very understanding and considerate of new challenges and the need for all of us to cooperate and adapt, even more so during these unprecedented times of COVID-19 pandemic.
What’s next for your work; what are you looking forward to?
We would like to progress telehealth options and more virtual access for GPs and people in the outer, more isolated regional areas, to access palliative care assessment and symptom management planning and education.
We also have visiting fly in palliative care specialists on a weekly basis, however we continue to work with the Local Health District to recruit a full time palliative care staff specialist for the region.