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What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of patients and their families facing life-limiting illness. The World Health Organization says it focuses on the quality of life and uses many measures – physical, psychosocial and spiritual – to prevent and relieve suffering. This includes providing relief from pain and other distressing symptoms, and offering a support system to patients and their families that may also incorporate bereavement counselling.

What is a Hospice?

A hospice is a specialist health care facility that provides a comprehensive program of palliative care to patients with life-limiting illness and their families. The Southern Highlands Community Hospice will be purpose-built and will offer a range of care services to patients.

These are end-of-life support; control of symptoms that haven’t responded to treatment at home, where the patient will then be discharged home, often for a significant period of time; and patients whose carer requires a break. It is constant and demanding work looking after a very ill loved one, and a vital period of respite care enables the carer to catch up on rest..

What is a Community Hospice?

The SHCH Project is adopting a model of palliative care that is relatively new in in Australia, where the local community takes responsibility for raising the funds, on an ongoing basis, for those who don’t have private health insurance or cannot afford to pay. This model is well established in the UK and NZ and is likely to become more important in Australia and be adopted by other communities.

The need for a Hospice in the Southern Highlands

The number of admissions for palliative care in Australian public and private hospitals in 2008/09 was 55,000, or 0.25% of the population. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Trends in Palliative Care in Australian Hospitals 1999/2000 to 2008/2009).

Applying this palliative care admission rate of 0.25% to the 2016 projected populations of the four shires that constitute the SHCH catchment area, shows at least three of the four catchment shires (excludes Shoalhaven) have populations older than the Australian average, an admission rate of 0.25% is conservative. Assuming the national average length of stay of 18 days and the standard 85% occupancy rate for palliative care patients gives this comparison:

Shire Projected 2016 Population Estimated Palliative Care Admissions
Total Shire Approximate SHCH Catchment area
Goulburn-Mulwaree  27,210 6,000 15
Shoalhaven 108,490 1,000 2
Wingecarribee 51,340 50,000 125
Wollondilly 48,850 21,500 54
Total 235,890 78,500 196

Source: NSW Department of Planning, Transport & Population Data Centre, NMSW SLA Population Projects, 2005 Release.

Number of Beds Needed = 196 patients x 18 days per patient = 3,528 bed days or 9.7 beds
Number of Beds Available = 10 beds x 85% average occupancy = 8.5 beds

Therefore, the projected 2016 target population will utilise the beds available.
The principal factors affecting demand over the next 10-20 years are population growth and higher dependency ratios.

Shire Projected Population % Change 2026-2016 Dependency Ratio2026
2016 2026
Goulburn-Mulwaree 27,210 27,110 -0.4 74
Shoalhaven 108,490 120,600 +11.2 83
Wingecarribee 51,340 56,390 +9.8 82
Wollondilly 48,850 54,380 +11.3 58
Total 235,890 258,480 9.6

Source: NSW Department of Planning, Transport & Population Data Centre, NMSW SLA Population Projects, 2005 Release.

Except for Goulburn-Mulwaree Shire, all shires in the catchment area are projected to experience population growth, and all shires are projected to have dependency ratios significantly higher than the Australia-wide ratio of 49.

Therefore the projected 2026 populations and dependency ratios in the SHCH catchment area are likely to produce palliative care demands higher than 2016 levels, in the absence of additional palliative care beds and/or changes in the way services are provided.