The statewide Palliative Care Advice Service (PCAS) at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) saw a significant increase in use by nearly 75 per cent throughout the month of January 2022.
The service offers free, confidential advice for both the general public and clinicians in Victoria who require information or resources about living with or caring for someone with life-limiting illness, palliative or end-of-life care.
The PCAS’ nurse unit manager, Esther McMillan-Drendel says data collected from January shows the service assisted with the statewide response to COVID-19.
“Our service saw a 33 per cent increase in doctors, nurses and aged care staff accessing the service,” said Esther. “While paramedics and the general public both had an increase of 100 per cent compared to previous months.”
A statewide code brown was declared at Victorian hospitals in mid-January, and Victorians were encouraged to save the emergency department for emergencies, and to use other services in the community for general health advice.
“Throughout the month of January, the PCAS prevented 16 per cent of callers contacting Triple 000 and presenting to emergency.
“Nearly 22 per cent were navigated to additional community services, and 61 per cent were callers from metropolitan areas from across the state,” Esther added.
The PCAS has been able to navigate and support Victorians living with life-limiting illness when their normal supportive services have not been available due to COVID-19.
“We had a caller who was living alone with chronic obstructive airways disease. They wanted to know how palliative care might help them, their quality of life and their family.
“Our expert nurses navigated the patient where to find information about their illness, and the services available in the community so they can remain at home. The patient reported they felt more confident about managing their breathing at home,” she added.