Celebrating 40 years of palliative care

Calvary Mater Newcastle’s Palliative Care Service has marked a significant milestone this month, celebrating 40 years of caring for patients from the Hunter, Lower Mid North Coast and New England regions.

As the largest specialist palliative care provider in the region Mark Jeffrey, General Manager at Calvary Mater Newcastle, commended staff for their commitment to high quality care.

Dr Rachel Hughes, Prof Peter Ravenscroft, Dr Pam Harrison OAM and Mark Jeffrey at Calvary Mater Newcastle's celebration of 40 years providing palliative care services.

Pictured L-R: Dr Rachel Hughes, Prof Peter Ravenscroft, Dr Pam Harrison OAM and Mark Jeffrey – Mater Newcastle General Manager.

“Supporting patients who are facing life-limiting illness and accompanying them and their loved ones through treatment, as well as providing dignified and comfort-focused care to those approaching the end of their life, is the number one priority for staff,” he said.

“To work in this area requires a specialised skillset, a commitment to your colleagues to achieve the best outcomes for patients at this vulnerable stage, and a deeply empathetic approach to care. It is an emotionally challenging job, and I’m so proud of the staff who turn up for our patients and each other, every day.”

Service Director, Dr Rachel Hughes, said the service has come a long way in its 40 year history and acknowledged the important role it now plays as part of Hunter New England Local Health District’s networked palliative care services.

“In our anniversary celebrations, we acknowledge the legacy of our founding and past staff and volunteers, and their determination and commitment to improving the experience of our local community,” she said.

“Today, we are proud to operate as an integral part of the Local Health District, providing public health services to our community in the form of public inpatient, outreach and hospice care.”

Mark Jeffrey and Dr Rachel Hughes celebrate 40 years of palliative care services at Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital

Established in August 1983, the service was born out of necessity, operating unfunded and in a voluntary capacity by Haematologist, Dr Pamela Harrison, and Sister Mary Brendan O’Connor (RSM – Sister of Mercy).

In 1984, the first community nurse coordinator for palliative care was appointed, and the following year, the first funded palliative care nurse was employed. In 1987, the palliative care service became fully funded by the NSW Government.

The Palliative Care Service now includes a 17-bed inpatient hospice and a 24/7 multidisciplinary community palliative care team, and provides clinical support to other hospitals and residential aged care facilities across the District.

“We work hard to maximise the quality of life for our patients, their family and loved ones, and ensure we are providing the best care possible in the patient’s preferred setting. In order to do this, we also have a big focus on education and research,” Dr Hughes said.

To mark the anniversary, a formal Celebration of Service was held at the Mater Mental Health Lecture Theatre (co-located on the Calvary Mater Newcastle site) on Wednesday, 23 August 2023 with former and current staff, volunteers, and community members in attendance.


To find out more about palliative care services at Calvary Mater Newcastle, click here.