Confusion surrounding the role of services provided by Great Lakes Hospice Palliative Support Services was the catalyst behind a proposed name change.
Discussed and voted on at the Great Lakes Hospice Inc annual general meeting, held at Tuncurry Beach Bowling Club on Thursday, November 15, the service will change its name to Great Lakes Palliative Care Support.
“There are many reasons why we need to look at the possibility of changing our name,” president Deidre Stokes told the meeting.
Established in 1989, the group later expanded its services with the purchase of the Cottage Hospice, Forster in 1995.
However, despite extensive community and financial support, lack of government assistance forced the closure and sale of the property just five years later.
Although hospice care and palliative care are similar – both provide comfort – palliative care can begin at diagnosis, and at the same time as treatment, while hospice care begins after treatment of the disease is stopped and when it is clear that the person is not going to survive the illness, Mrs Stokes explained.
“We therefore have no actual hospice building, nor do we have access to beds that provide dedicated hospice care,” she said.
“The term hospice care does not really cover the scope of what we actually do.”
The service provides palliative care support to patients experiencing life limiting illness, support for carers and families and to relieve some of the associated burden and stress that people face during difficult times, she said.
“Locals and newcomers to town are not aware of the history of the cottage hospice and so there is still a presumption that there is an actual place.
“We are still asked frequently for patients to be admitted to the hospice for end of life care.
”With the best of intentions I think we are misleading the community and setting them up for disappointment when their request for hospice care cannot be fulfilled.
“Families coming from other areas assume that hospice care is either provided in our local hospice facility or in a designated area of Forster Private Hospital.
“End of life care can and is done well whether at home, hospital or in aged care facilities but we cannot provide what we haven’t got and that is 24 hour dedicated hospice care.”
Mrs Stokes assured a name change would not change the group’s focus of providing support to palliative care and oncology patients.
“Changing the name of our service to Great Lakes Palliative Care Support gives a more accurate and realistic picture of what we do and what we do well.
Vice-president, Nigel Harman said care provided by local palliative nurses was excellent.
“There are very few hospices in this country,” Mr Harman said.
He explained the hospice care model in Australia was based on the British system.
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