National offers hospice boost

MICHAEL FOX AND STACEY KIRK
Last updated 16:19 13/08/2014

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National has pledged an extra $20 million a year in funding for hospices if re-elected in September.

National's health spokesman, the retiring Health Minister Tony Ryall, said the funding would allow hospices to provide more palliative care.

Ryall said last year more than 15,000 people received care and support from the country's 29 hospices while their palliative carers made over 145,000 visits to people in their homes.

Demand on hospice services would increase with an ageing population and this needed to be catered for.

"Hospices make a huge difference to people's lives by ensuring terminally ill people are as free from pain and suffering as possible," Ryall said.

"They also provide care and support for families and friends."

Of the new funding, $13m would go towards helping the country's hospices care for terminally ill people in their homes while $7m would fund 60 new palliative care nurses and educators.

These nurses would provide training, mentoring and hands on support for staff across aged residential care, GP practices and home-based support services, he said.

Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King said National was topping up funding they'd already slashed.

"When we were in Government, in fact we brought in the palliative care strategy, and we also took palliative care funding particularly to our hospices up to over 70 per cent of the funding," King said.

"I'm told that's dropped down to around 50 per cent under this Government, so they're probably putting back what should be there anyway."

Any funding shortfalls for palliative care services are made up through donations and fundraising.

King said palliative care was an important part of Labour's pending health announcements.

She was reluctant to put a figure on palliative care services.

"We've announced a funding increase for health and education, $1 billion, and out of that obviously as a commitment we'd be looking to ensure palliative care was supported.

"Because a lot of our health services in the future would be provided within the community and within people's homes, and alongside that we've got the need to train a palliative care work force." 

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