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Victorian Health Minister announces new end-of-life framework

Honourable Jill Hennessy MP, Victorian Health Minister, speaking at the opening ceremony of the 13th Australian Palliative Care Conference,

Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today encouraged clinicians, community members, patients and carers to help shape the future of palliative care in Victoria.

“I am delighted to announce today that the Victorian Government will be commencing an extensive consultation to develop a new end of life framework,” she told delegates at the 13th Australian Palliative Care Conference in Melbourne.

She said Victoria’s palliative care framework concludes at the end of this year, which “provides us with the chance to think differently and innovatively about what we can do to ensure Victorians have access to good end of life care”.

“I encourage you all to think about what is it that needs to be done. What are the sorts of things that need to be in end of life care frameworks? How can we make sure the system works for those we are trying to support – the patient? And how can we raise community awareness so that it’s not something we talk about later?

“We need to ensure your insights, learning and aspirations about what patients want, are reflected in a new model of care for end of life care.”

“A framework should be something as policy makers we continually look to, to enhance and improve and make responsive to the patients we serve.”

She said over the past 10 years the Victorian Government had focussed on building a specialist palliative care workforce but “there is more to do”. The state’s health system was behind in ensuring people had appropriate palliative care options, so they could genuinely make choices. It was also important to broaden responsibility for achieving good end of life care right across the health system.

“The decision of what this care is and where this care takes place should be up to the individual. We need to move away from it being dictated by the system and not the individual.”

Ms Hennessy said the Victorian Government was also committed to overcoming legal issues that were undermining the effectiveness of advance care directives. While patients could use directives to specify treatment they found acceptable, the law recognised this only for existing medical conditions, rather than future illnesses.

“We want to improve that, which is why a new end of life framework is so important.

“We see shifts in science, technology and service capability, but often we don’t refresh our policy settings. A framework should be something as policy makers we continually look to, to enhance and improve and make responsive to the patients we serve.”

In addressing Australia’s largest meeting of palliative care professionals, Ms Hennessy acknowledged the contributions made by people working in palliative care.

“I want to commend you for the fantastic work that you do. I can’t think of a more important arc of the health sector than dealing with how we die and how we support those who are caring for those with a life limiting illness.

“I want to thank you for turning up every day, not bringing just your clinical expertise and emotional intelligence, but compassion to the work you do. There is no price that can be put on that,” she said.


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