Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001
Parliamentary Record 27
Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 28 February 2001 and educate the family and loved ones to look after him. But there is a growing number of people, males and females - but I am emphasising men at the moment - who are growing old alone. They will not have somebody to care for them in their home when the time comes. At the moment, for many, the only option is to go into a large public hospital. As a nurse, I can tell you I despaired, because we were run off our feet caring for the acutely ill, the people that had a hope to get out, which is the vast majority of hospital patients. But there is a significant minority who do go into hospital, even today, to die. Because its hard work in a hospital, I do have a concern for the people who are there in the terminal stages of their illness. In our public hospital at the moment, if you are a terminally ill patient who is frail, who has lost a lot of weight, who has skin problems, they need to be nursed on then side and, as a nurse, you need to roll them from side to side every couple of horns. Therefore, for 12 hours of the day the person will be facing, more often than not, a wall. The windows are fairly high and someone lying in bed cannot see out the window if they are on then side. I think about these people, who are dying, on then side in hospital, looking at a painted wall. And its really not good enough. I know one day we will get a hospice, and its for that reason that we need it. We need a place with wide open windows, with the ability to move people out onto the verandah, or move them into the leafy gardens for their final days, if thats what they want to do. Many are conscious right up until the last few hours, and if they want to go and be under a tree with the birds around them, then thats where they should be. In the interim, what should we be doing? We should be improving our hospital situation for these people - and to do that you dont need a lot. You just need to do a little bit of architectural changing around; soften up the furnishings a little bit. The beds, as I learned from my trip overseas, are essentially the same beds that we use in any hospital in Australia. They need to be like that, mechanical beds, because of the occupational health and safety issues affecting the people who are caring for those terminally-ill people. It wont take a lot to set aside a quiet comer of a hospital, say four or five beds, and to have that area set up in a way that is more hospitable for patients and then families to go through the difficult process of the last stages of a terminal illness. I know we can do it and I am confident that we will. Over the next few years, until we can justify a stand-alone hospice, there is no reason we cannot address the needs of patients currently dying in, what are known as, acute wards in our hospitals. All of these things, the setting up of an area within a current hospital to deal with the issue short term and the establishment of a stand-alone hospice, will take effort, time, and money. I realise that, but I know as a community we are moving towards that. There is much support in the community for a hospice, and I know that we will do it. It was really pleasing to present that petition today. As a group we had aimed for 3000 signatures, so to get 4911 was a fantastic effort. Thank you. Mrs HICKEY (Barkly): Mr Deputy Speaker, I endorse what the member for Port Darwin has said and wish to add my words of support to her very eloquent and well-informed speech bome out of her personal experience as a nurse and as a carer, and as somebody who genuinely cares deeply about this sort of issue. There is no doubt this will be a developmental issue; that we will move from the stage of having a separate ward in one of our hospitals to a stand-alone facility. But we do need to start making those changes and planning for the future now. As the member for Port Darwin said, our population of aged people entering those final stages with diseases such as cancer is inevitable, and we need to be preparing for it. The other important issue to note is that the palliative-care team needs a home to call its own, and it is useful for that team to be housed in the same area as a ward or a hospice-care facility so they can more readily administer the work that is needed. I know that, because they do not have a home to call then own - I dont think they are even in the Jacana Ward of the private hospital at the moment - the task is just that much more difficult and time consuming. And time, of course, is of the essence in terms of dealing adequately and appropriately with people in the final stages of life. I said this morning, and I continue to say, they do a wonderful job. This admiration is based on the personal experience I had with them, and I certainly will support them in any forum that I can contribute to. I hope that the petition that was presented today is the start of a concerted and ongoing campaign to ensure that we do achieve hospice care in the Northern Territory. In the aged care debate today, the member for Nightcliff challenged me to say where I intended to retire. Whilst I dont feel at all bound to satisfy Steve Hattons curiosity, others do deserve to know. They have asked me the same question and it seems timely for me to place a few comments on the Parliamentary Record in that regard. First, I wish to acknowledge that the years I have spent in the Territory have been among the most interesting, rewarding, and significant in my life. I, 7550
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