Hospice through the years
Goulburn Valley Hospice Care Service Inc. (GV Hospice Care Service) was established in 1989 in response to a deficiency in available specialist palliative care services, as reflected by an increasing number of terminally ill patients being admitted to acute care services (hospital), with limited or no grief or bereavement support.
In 1989, carers and families of terminally ill patients were limited in access to support for terminally ill family members and reported that it was difficult to obtain information or gain access to facilities that would enable appropriate care for a person at the end of t heir life. This was exacerbated after general business hours when many health care organisations closed and general practice clinics went to an on-call mode, for emergencies only. Families had little choice during this period to access appropriate care and were obligated to take their terminally ill relative to an emergency department (the hospital) for advice and car e an inappropriate setting for the provision of quality palliative care.
During this period there was an increasing interest and growing level of professional knowledge in palliative care, but it was unevenly distributed amongst nursing and medical health professionals. There was a strong desire to encourage health practitioners to become aware of advances in palliation medicine and to provide an accessible source of information and care required for quality palliative care.
An inaugural Committee of Management was founded and a proposal developed to form a Service that could provide specialist palliative nursing car e, assisted with clinical ad ice from medical practitioners. The service model was based on established services situated in Ballarat and Geelong, which provided practical assistance and support for the person with a life-limiting illness and their families from a network of trained volunteers.
Consultation with the Hume Region of the then Health Department of Victoria resulted in the provision of an annual grant of $62,000. This was received through the Commonwealth Medicare Incentive Package and enabled the palliative care service to commence. The Committee of Management responded with alacrity to create the necessary infrastructure which would enable the provision of a local quality palliative care service. A nurse was employed, supported by a clinical advisory committee, and a team of volunteers was established. A series of fundraising projects, conducted by service clubs and concerned individuals, raised the much needed funds to ease premises from which to operate and to purchase syringe drivers, nursing equipment, a mobile telephone, education aids, motor vehicle and other equipment to conduct the Service.
GV Hospice Care Service quickly established a reputation for providing quality professional palliative care to patients and their families. The Service became a reference point for many health practitioners, assisting with advice and treatment options for patients under their care. The demand for palliative care quickly exceeded the resources of the sole nurse. The Committee of Management sought further recurrent funding from Commonwealth and State Governments to provide increase d nursing resources, without success. To meet the demand, the Committee resolved to increase its fundraising efforts to provide further nursing resources and this continued for a period of two years until further Government funding was confirmed.
In the early establishment of the Service, the average monthly case load was 33 patients. In 2020, the daily number of patients being supported by the Service is approximately 90, with 7 part time nurses. The Service continues to provide care for those with a life-limiting illness, at no cost, thanks to the generosity of the continued donations provided by the local community. There is no exclusion criteria based on the disease diagnosis, with patients also coming from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.