Four dedicated beds for palliative care patients in Orange could be operational by the end of the year after the health service announced it was calling for expressions of interest from providers.
The move by the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) is the first major step to introduce care for end-of-life patients after a long campaign by the Orange Push for Palliative Care group to get state government funding for the scheme.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Brad Hazzard confirmed the decision was part of the government process with the WNSWLD seeking to find the best organisation to partner with.
WNSWLHD chief executive Scott McLachlan said the expressions process would be open for eight weeks.
“This service will be outside of the Orange hospital and will offer a more home-like environment for inpatient palliative end-of-life care,” he said.
“Through this process, we are looking to partner with an organisation which can provide up to to four inpatient palliative care beds.
“The process will ensure that the appropriate funding, clinical and logistics arrangements are in place for the service to operate efficiently.”
He said it would initially operate for a year before being reviewed.
Dudley Private Hospital is the front runner to provide the care after the Orange Push for Palliative Care group and local doctors backed its proposal to provide the beds.
WNSWLHD executive director of allied health and innovation Richard Cheney said he expected Dudley to apply.
“They are certainly someone we have been in engaged in conversations with and we have been in many meetings with Dudley,” he said.
This is tangible, this is real, it is getting close.Jenny Hazelton, chair of Orange Push for Palliative Care
Mr Cheney said it was important all avenues of providing palliative care were explored.
“This is quite a significant investment in the Orange community and it is with taxpayer money so I’m assuming that we’ll have providers that have already expressed some interest in responding to the tender.
“But it is an opportunity for those that we haven’t yet met with who do have an interest to be able to also respond to that tender.
“Then we can openly look at all the opportunities that could be provided for the people of Orange.”
He said a panel of experts would be set up to assess the expressions and work with the successful tenderer to possibly start the scheme by the end of the year or early 2019.
Mr Cheney said the Orange hospital would continue to provide palliative care once the new service was operating.
“We have unfortunately quite a significant demand and a growing demand [for palliative care],” he said.
Orange Health Service general manager Catherine Nowlan said palliative care was not only provided in hospital.
“We know that 75 per cent of people would like, where they can, to die at home,” she said.
Orange Push for Palliative Care chair Jenny Hazelton said it was great news.
“This is tangible, this is real, it is getting close,” she said.
“This is all good news but we haven’t got the money yet.
“It shows the local health district is on the front foot, they are doing the due diligence.
“The tender process is going to take two months, unfortunately, and that slows things down, but the good news is the local health district is positive and proactive,” she said.