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Sign the petition: Outcry over palliative care funding cuts

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NSW Parliament. Photo: Wikimedia

Liberal MLC Susan Carter is urging people to petition for restoration of palliative care funding to the levels promised by the former Coalition government, after the difference in spending was revealed to be greater than originally thought.

In a budget estimates hearing on 22 February Carter and Shadow Minister for Regional Health Bronywn Taylor pressed Minister for Health Ryan Park to explain why funding for the next four years was reduced by almost $250 million, from $650-$401 million in the latest state budget.

Hunter New England health district and South Western Sydney are the worst affected, losing more than 40 per cent of their original funding promised in 2022.

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Northern Sydney and South Eastern Sydney will receive 39 per cent less funding than originally promised and the Central Coast, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Northern NSW and Sydney local health districts will receive 36 per cent less funding.

Paediatric palliative care at the Sydney Childrens’ and John Hunter Children’s hospitals will receive half of the funding originally allocated by the Perrottet government in its last budget.

Park refused to be drawn on the reduced amounts and instead drew attention to the increased funding his government is committing to palliative care compared with previous years, including boosts to infrastructure projects and health care staff.

“We’re investing more than 1.7 billion over the next four years, that’s an increase of around 6.8 per cent higher this year compared to last year and it will go up another eight per cent in increase,” the minister said.

“The profile in terms of growth in funding I understand, yes that has changed, but let’s be very clear, we are delivering record amounts for palliative care.”

Responding to repeated questions about the shortfalls, which have seen some local health area districts shelve plans for hiring extra palliative care staff he responded that “you put forward your budget when you were in government, and we’ve put forward our budget.”

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has supported the petition calling for the government to fully restore the additional funding announced in the 2022-23 budget for enhanced palliative care services throughout NSW.

“The flow on effect from fewer resources being allocated to palliative care is that fewer people will be able to access it,” the archbishop said in a statement.

The online petition at the Legislative Council website has reached 8000 signatures and Carter hopes to reach 12,500 before it closes on 3 April.

“The extra $743 million that had been allocated was to address the issues in lack of funding, many of which had been exposed as part of the debate around the introduction of the Voluntary Assisted Dying laws in NSW,” she told The Catholic Weekly.

“There was a view expressed that, especially in regional areas, patients needed access to VAD because they had no real access to adequate palliative care.

“I note that the same budget which cut palliative care also funded Voluntary Assisted Dying by $97 million. This was always proposed as a choice, but if we do not fund palliative care properly it may stop being a real choice.”

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