Page 2950 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 14 August 2013

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The ACT government is working with our health service to lead this discussion in our community. The first step is to start the conversation, with our communities and with our families, to talk about what we want and what we do not want, what we value and what questions we ask when our loved ones are facing the end of life.

The ACT Local Hospital Network Council helped to start this conversation by hosting the end-of-life issues and decision-making forum on Saturday, 4 May this year. This was the first time that the community, medical professionals and health services had come together to discuss issues around end-of-life care. The Chief Minister and I were both pleased to be able to attend.

The aim of the forum was to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the community and health clinicians to identify ways to improve the system of the end-of-life care and decision making. The forum was an extremely constructive event and although many different opinions were shared, there was a strong consensus that everyone should be able to make decisions about their end-of-life care and should be supported by a system that respects their wishes.

At the completion of the forum, the Local Hospital Network Council made a number of recommendations: to increase community engagement and awareness about end-of-life care, to increase community awareness of advanced care planning, to increase resources for advanced care planning, including training of more staff, to clarify the legal framework around advanced care plans and create simpler, legally binding tools to enable advanced care planning, to ensure advanced care plans are easily available and systems act upon them and to recognise the issue of futile care. Work has already progressed on a number of these proposals, and the report released yesterday sets the right direction for us to carry on this discussion.

Importantly, the ACT government has backed up our advocacy with action. As part of the 2013-14 budget, the government has increased funding for the respecting patient choices program by $1.2 million over four years. Respecting patient choices is an advanced care planning program in the ACT. The program is funded by ACT Health and is available to all members of the community. Advanced care planning provides a quality assurance process for an individual to appoint an attorney for health and personal and/or financial matters. The individual can then discuss and document their wishes and choices about future healthcare for a time when they may be unable to make these decisions, particularly towards the end of their life.

The increased funding will provide an additional 1.4 full-time equivalent staff members, in addition to the one full-time employee currently working on the program. The additional staff will be dedicated to improving the level of community education and awareness across the ACT and increase the uptake of advanced care planning across the community and within particular groups.

Those who suffer from chronic disease, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and financially and socially disadvantaged groups often suffer most when they face the end of their life and have not had the support to plan for this time before it was too late. This new

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