Thursday 27 June 2013


Hansard of the Legislative Council





Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I do not want to appear morbid today but we in this House should be interested and concerned about the provision of palliative care in Tasmania, if only for personal reasons.  All 15 of us, and this might come as a shock to some of you, are going to die at some stage.  Medical statistics show that Tasmanians beyond the age of 60 are likely to suffer a morbidity about every five years. I am due for my next one in about 12 months.  Some of us are likely to suffer cancer, heart, kidney or liver disease.  Some of us are likely to face the prospect of a terminal illness and are going to need palliative care.


This leads me to the issue of the need for a hospice in northern Tasmania.  We had one once - Philip Oakden House.  It served the northern community brilliantly with three public and three private beds but now it is no more because it became financially unviable when  OneCare required all its facilities to provide a profit. I know that when it was first set up, the costs of Philip Oakden House were covered to a great extent by the Manor, because private beds and aged units were available and some of that money enabled Philip Oakden House to be successful in its role as a hospice for our northern community.

Launceston now has four beds in Calvary hospital at St Luke's. There is also one bed in the north-west and one in Scottsdale, which are not solely for palliative care.  This compares with 10 beds in the Whittle Ward in Hobart for a comparable population.  The Health minister's office says four funded beds are sufficient for northern Tasmania.  I can tell you that those four beds have 98 per cent occupancy.  There is a need, at this time, for one or two more beds.

The argument is not really about bed numbers as much as it is about the quality of palliative care. Hospice nursing is not the same as acute care nursing.  Hospice patients need a quiet, non‑formal routine of nursing. I believe it is unfair to expect nurses in an acute care ward to adapt to that requirement.


There is now growing community pressure in Launceston - in northern Tasmania - for a new dedicated hospice.  A group called Friends of Northern Hospice have demonstrated public support at a public meeting, which filled the Pilgrim Uniting Church and they have a petition - well over 2 000 signatures have already been received.  The suggestion is for a dedicated 10-bed hospice near the Launceston General Hospital and serviced by the LGH. Seven beds would be publicly funded and three would be private.  An ideal hospice would be on the ground floor, for easy access so that patients' beds can be moved out into the sun and fresh air. However, a hospice also needs peaceful surroundings, gardens and lawns.  There must be 24-hour access for families and friends of patients. That is what we had at Philip Oakden House, which served our community so well.


I know all of us here have sufficient imagination to see ourselves, possibly, in palliative care and what we would want for our care at that time.  Would we want to be on the fourth floor of an acute care hospital where the whole nursing structure is to get you well and out of there?  That is the premise on which you are in hospital.  Or would you prefer to be in a bed at a ground level, looking through a picture window at gardens and flowers, with a nursing staff to make you comfortable and relaxed, with space for your family around you, knowing that you had only perhaps days, weeks or months to enjoy the rest of your life?


Mr President, I wish the group well. I have been a supporter for a long time and they are determined in their effort to provide a northern hospice for northern Tasmanians.  It is up to us to acknowledge that there is a need in Tasmania for this hospice care and let us hope that soon it will come to fruition for northern Tasmanians.