Questions raised by Catholic MLC Susan Carter have revealed concerning plans for the co-delivery of palliative care and Voluntary Assisted Dying in NSW health districts when VAD comes online on 28 November.
In a Budget Estimates hearing on 26 October NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said VAD and palliative care could be co-delivered in certain local health districts.
“When someone is asking for voluntary assisted dying as per the Act, it is important that the full suite of measures, including palliative care and other options around treatment and prognosis, are discussed,” Dr Chant said.
“We’ve got the privilege of embedding this in a sort of end-of-life care framework.”
Ms Carter, seeking clarification, questioned if a patient seeking palliative care would be co-located with a patient receiving VAD, or kept physically separate.
“The local health districts have been given autonomy in the way they want to structure the service,” Dr Chant explained.
After VAD was legalised in May 2022, leading palliative care specialist Dr Frank Brennan told The Catholic Weekly the presence of VAD would complicate the clinical environment around palliative care.
“The VAD story will hover over those conversations,” Dr Brennan said.
“That’s one of the many concerns that palliative care has about the introduction of VAD. The response to the suffering of a person starts to be taken over by process.”
It was revealed in September that palliative care funding in NSW would be slashed by $150 million, down from $450 million.
Health Minister Ryan Park during the hearing insisted that palliative care commitments would not be harmed, instead focusing on the proposed 7 per cent funding increase for 2023-24 and 8 per cent the year after.
“We are investing a record amount,” he said.
The Minns government will instead redirect the money, saying it needs to find $98 million to pay for voluntary euthanasia, and to hire more nurses to fill staff shortages.