Jul 12, 2021


Jul 12, 2021

An almost 70 per cent shortfall in the number of palliative care specialists that should be employed in the North completely undermines claims that proposed euthanasia laws are to provide dignity in death to those who are suffering, Katter’s Australian Party Leader Robbie Katter has said.

The Traeger MP, speaking on the day of the Townsville public hearing into the Palaszczuk Labor Government’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021, said the figures further painted a devastating picture of the state of Queensland’s health system.

He said he felt both politically and personally concerned that with palliative care in the state so extremely and unashamedly under-funded, sick Queenslanders would feel compelled to take their own lives should euthanasia laws pass in September.

This was a tragic choice no civilised society would deliberately or inadvertently force on its own citizens, Mr Katter said.

Further he said this burden would undoubtedly rest more heavily on the shoulders of poorer Queenslanders who were denied high-quality palliative care through the public system but also could not pay for it through private health insurance.

According to the Palliative Care Australia 2018 Benchmark, 14.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) palliative care specialist doctors should be employed across North Queensland’s five hospital and health services.

This includes five doctors in Townsville, five in Cairns and surrounds, 3.5 in Mackay and a 0.5FTE role in both the North West and Torres Strait/Cape regions.

This represent 14.5 doctors, but only 4.5 are currently employed across the region.

The majority are in Townsville, which has three palliative care specialist doctors but should be employing around five.

Cairns should also be staffed with five doctors specialising in end-of-of life care but currently has just 1.5FTE roles.

There are none in Mackay when there should be 3.5FTE doctors employed, and both the North West and Torres Strait/Cape should have a 0.5FTE doctor each but there are none currently employed.

In total, there should be around 100 palliative care specialists working in the Queensland health system but only 43 roles are funded.

The true state of affairs regarding palliative care specialist staffing rates is documented in a submission to the VAD Bill by the Queensland Directors of Palliative Care Group.

Mr Katter said the figures sent a shiver down his spine.

He said while Palliative Care Queensland had been vocal about the need for an additional $275 million towards end-of-care in the state each year, realising the lack of doctors employed against nationally-recommended standards was sobering.

“Unfortunately the emotional nature of discussing end-of-life issues and death means the political debate around these laws are open to hijacking and exploitation by people with an ideological purpose,” Mr Katter said.

“While I have my own personal views that I am open about, I don’t not seek to impose them on others.

“However I find it tragic that these laws are even being considered when the alternative to taking one’s life, which is high-quality palliative care, is barely treated as a priority by the State Government.

“Those involved with encouraging the pursuit of these laws without addressing these primary concerns should hang their heads in shame.

“There is no dignity to be had in offering people this additional choice of euthanasia to end suffering when refusing to genuinely provide them with the alternative.”