As most of you already know, I've long championed palliative care, and improving palliative services has been, and remains, one of my biggest priorities since first being elected in 2016 - when I met with members of Push for Palliative.
Since then, I've lobbied government for dedicated inpatient palliative care services, which vanished from Orange's local health service when moving from the old hospital to the new.
I debated a 10,000+ signature petition on the floor of parliament and raised the issue in many speeches and media interviews.
I formed the Orange Palliative Working Group, comprised of stakeholders and NSW health representatives, and I have chaired it since.
I have sat and listened to palliative patients and their relatives, who shared their palliative journey and experience with me.
I'm forever grateful to a palliative patient, the late Toney Fitzgerald. Toney braved enormous discomfort and fatigue to implore me to deliver a dedicated inpatient palliative service, staffed with trained palliative staff.
Sadly, Toney lost his battle with cancer and passed away not long after the accompanying picture was taken in 2019, but I have never given up in seeking better palliative services which are supported with specialist staff.
The NSW Government and NSW Health finally listened to our united voice and reinstated impatient palliative services at Orange, once again.
The dedicated palliative beds at the Orange Health Service are fully occupied and are serviced by a very caring palliative-trained team.
It's true, most people prefer to die at home.
The Government's previous reluctance to invest in inpatient palliative care services has relied on people's overwhelming preference to die in their own home.
The reality is that most palliative patients require inpatient care in the final weeks and days of their life.
Although the Government have been slow in addressing palliative care service issues, which I've repeatedly raised in parliament over the past six years, Premier Perrottet last week announced $743 million in palliative funding over the next five years.
This is welcome news however, it shouldn't take political fright from a Liberal Nationals defeat in the recent federal election and an imminent State election to motivate the government to announce funding for an area of health which has long been neglected.
It's now important that rural and regional communities get access to our share of the announced funding and resources.
We need funding to train and retain palliative medical physicians and nurses out here in the country, having an adequate number of palliative inpatient beds made available, providing access to allied health such as psychologists, occupational therapists, chaplaincy and spiritual care.
Recruitment and retention of health workers is a constant challenge for this sector in rural and regional areas.
For the Government, this will be a critical element in delivering on this promise.
This is an issue which lies close to my heart.
I will be speaking with the Premier and his team about palliative and broader health resources for the communities of the whole of the Orange electorate.
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