Rural Medicine Australia 2017 conference to discuss rural palliative care challenges

A need: Dr Ewen McPhee and Professor Lucie Walters say palliative care has unique challenges in rural settings. Photo contributed.
A need: Dr Ewen McPhee and Professor Lucie Walters say palliative care has unique challenges in rural settings. Photo contributed.

The difficulties that rural patients with life-limiting conditions face in accessing palliative care in their own communities will be a key discussion topic at a major rural doctors’ conference this month.

The increased demand on small rural hospitals stemming from an ageing population and the associated need for palliative care is another of the topics for an important item of the Rural Medicine Australia RMA17 conference.

Delegates at the session, will discuss the unique challenges for rural GPs and other healthcare providers in providing palliative care in rural or remote settings.

It will also provide an overview of the palliative approach to care, and information on where support and resources can be accessed.

Palliative care has increasingly been on the hearts and minds of Dubbo community members, who have lent their support to the ‘I care for palliative care’ campaign.

Professor Lucie Walters, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine immediate past president, said a doctor in a small town was not just a doctor, they were part of the community.

“When charged with providing palliative services, they’re not just looking at a patient; they’re often looking at a friend,” she said.

“This places a heavy burden on the shoulders of any health professional, but it compounds palliative care services for those in rural and remote areas.”

The session would further inform delegates on evidence-based pain and symptom management strategies for palliative patients, and discuss strategies for integrating the palliative approach into their care protocols, she said.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ewen McPhee said as the population aged, the need to provide better access to quality palliative care would only become more critical.

"In rural and remote settings, palliative care is often provided at the local hospital as very few dedicated rural palliative care facilities are available,” he said.

“This can put considerable demand on bed availability at rural hospitals, and also place palliative care patients in a setting they would rather not be in the last stages of their life.”

Six doctors from the wider Orana region will attend.