Doctor outlines WA’s dire need of palliative care services

Dr Kevin Yuen has called on the State Government to fund more palliative care. Picture: David Baylis
Dr Kevin Yuen has called on the State Government to fund more palliative care. Picture: David Baylis

WA palliative care specialist Kevin Yuen has a clear message for the debate on voluntary assisted dying.

The Royal Perth Bentley Group consultant doctor says it should not be about VAD versus palliative care.

The community could have both but there was a dire need for the Government to fund more palliative care resources.

“I am not opposed to VAD; it’s about having VAD for a few and the best possible care for the rest of us,” he said.

“VAD will be used by about 1 per cent; most of us will need and want good palliative care services.”

Dr Yuen, of Doubleview, revealed:

• WA has the lowest number of palliative care physicians of any state – 15.

• WA has low numbers of palliative care/hospice beds compared to other states.

• There are no dedicated public palliative beds in the northern corridor.

• Silver Chain Hospice Care service is contracted to provide home care for patients with a prognosis of two months; VAD will be available for a person with at least a prognosis of six months or less. Formerly there were no time limits on when care could be given.

• Silver Chain is contracted to provide care for 450 patients but it regularly has a caseload of more than 600 patients, a pretty big ‘virtual hospital’.

Dr Yuen said a recent palliative care summit, attended by Health Minister Roger Cook, had shown “we’ve got a lot of work to do” to get more palliative care services.

“Minister Cook’s $43 million is going to the regions with no new funds for metropolitan palliative care,” he said.

Dr Yuen said most people did not die in pain.

“Usually it is the family at the bedside that are suffering the pain,” he said.