MEMORIES of the dedicated and professional care her dying father received at Canossa Private Hospital earlier this year have led a Brisbane woman to campaign against the State Government’s looming closure of 10 palliative care beds at the hospital.
Samantha Leblang, of Corinda, joined with other concerned members of the public as well as nurses and other employees from the palliative care sector on December 15 to launch a protest rally at the Oxley-based hospital.
Speakers at the rally, attended by about 100 people, warned of a situation where dying Queenslanders could be forced into emergency departments and acute medical wards to be attended by staff with inadequate training.
Politicians were also present including State Member for Mount Ommaney Julie Attwood and State Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle.
Spokespeople for Canossa and Palliative Care Queensland (PCQ) later told The Catholic Leader the loss of the beds would also mean the end of a “vitally important” training program at Canossa for doctors planning to specialise in palliative care.
Ms Leblang said she had joined the rally because her father had died this year in Canossa’s palliative care unit as a public patient.
“The specialised care he received was second to none,” she said.
“The thought of other people and their families not having access to palliative care beds when they need it the most is a terrible thought.”
She was “angry and disappointed” by the Queensland Health decision to remove the public palliative care beds from Canossa.
“It’s supposed to be about saving money, but it only works out to about $1.5 million,” she said.
“This from a department that recently wasted $200 million or whatever on those payroll bungles, not to mention what was wasted before this.”
PCQ chief executive officer John-Paul Kristensen said he had been encouraged to see “a number of very angry and committed people” at the December 15 rally.
“Many have had family members die in palliative care at Canossa,” he said.
“It’s also a place earmarked by many in the vicinity to go for the last phase of their life.
“There’s a groundswell of popular support for these palliative care beds to remain.
“People aren’t going to stand idly by and let them be taken.”
Mr Kristensen said the impending closures were only the “tip of the iceberg, a tiny fraction of the inequity happening in the sector – a problem increased by a reputed $63 million budget blow-out in Metro South Health Service District”.
He said in a bid to avert the bed closures, he and PCQ president Associate Professor Rohan Vora had met with representatives from the Premier’s office as well as representatives from Queensland Health, including acting Director General Michael Cleary and Director of Older People’s Health and Extended Care Graham Kraak.
“They told us the beds would definitely be going and the best thing to do was to talk to the chief executive officer of Metro South and see whether a fast-tracking procedure could be arranged to get dying patients out of emergency wards to a bed somewhere else to get the care they needed,” Mr Kristensen said.
“It’s just not good enough though – imagine a dying person being left alone in an emergency ward surrounded by people requiring higher priority care due to heart attacks, car accidents and the like.
“Even if they can be moved elsewhere, how are workers in, say, an orthopaedic ward going to deal with such a specialised area as palliative care?” >Page 5
Mr Kristensen said the beds were initially going to be closed at Canossa from February 2011 but this would now not happen until June.
“Anyway, State Health Minister Paul Lucas promised these beds would not close until the 10 replacement beds opened at QEII Hospital (at Coopers Plains),” he said.
“PCQ’s position remains that if these 10 palliative care beds close, 10 specialist palliative care beds must be opened immediately within the district.
“There’s also been talk about 10 beds coming ‘on line’ in late 2011/early 2012 at the QEII – certainly some way off.
“We’re pretty cynical about this though. Those same 10 beds were promised back in 2006 or 2007.”
A Canossa spokeswoman said the 10 beds “represent
support for hundreds of people in a year when the turnover of patients and family and friends are considered”.
“Palliative care is more than just patients – it also encompasses the patient’s family and friends,” she said.
“The situation the Government is proposing where the beds remain open an extra two to three months is just not good enough.
“These beds need to remain open until at the very least there are public palliative care beds at QEII.”
A further problem caused by the closure of the beds would be the loss of an important palliative care training facility at Canossa.
“It’s vitally important this training continues … there are not a lot of palliative care specialists in Queensland as it is,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the rally at Canossa was just the beginning of opposition to the bed closures.
“Many relatives at the rally explained to the politicians and media gathered what it meant to have loved ones cared for in a proper palliative care unit,” she said.
“I understand 2000 signatures are required to get the Government’s attention to particular issues. We’re aiming to get at least that many.”
Metro South Health District’s chief executive officer David Theile was reported on the day of the rally as saying the contract would be extended until at least June.
He said a new 10-bed, $4 million palliative care unit would become operational at the QEII Hospital in late 2011.