Nasty deaths predicted for millennials


Many millennials are forecast to die badly because our underfunded palliative care system is struggling on dwindling fundraising.

Experts say we already have a “postcode lottery” determining who dies in pain.

The scale of the problem contrasts with the provisions of the newly available End of Life Choice legislation.

The new legislation offers a fully-funded system to enable terminally ill people who meet exacting criteria to end their lives.

But, if a terminally ill person wants palliative care and to end their lives naturally and in comparative comfort, funding is chancy.

Much of it comes from the likes of selling strawberries and second hand clothes.

“Looking to the future is a nerve-wracking experience, as we see costs increasing but no sign of a commitment from Government to help us with the additional costs,” Mary Potter Hospice chief executive Brent Alderton​ says.

“It is ironic that the new end-of-life-choice service is fully funded and our hospice care funded less than 50 per cent.”

The hospice makes up the rest itself – from second-hand shops, bequests, donations, events and reserves.

This year’s Strawberry Festival fundraiser, however, was cancelled due to Covid-19. The Hospice already had a $100,000-plus deficit from last financial year.

Danielle van Dalen​ of the Maxim Institute says the need for palliative care in New Zealand is expected to increase by 50 percent in the next 20 years and double in the next 50 years.

The pandemic’s disruptions to fundraising have resulted in some palliative care services having to dip into savings for the first time, she said.

“If funding doesn’t go up, along with other things, more people will have bad deaths.”

Sue Sutherland, who is the general manager of marketing at Nurse Maude, says the Government provides about 70 percent of hospice service funds. Like the Wellington hospice, they have to fundraise the rest.

If the forecast increase for hospice palliative care becomes a reality, there would need to be a rise in Government funding “so everyone who needs palliative care can continue to receive it,” Sutherland says.

Health Minister Andrew Little says the Ministry of Health is already looking into improving the “equity and quality of palliative care…”.

Talks with those working in palliative care show there are already areas needing improvement, he says.

The Government funding for palliative is currently set at $490.7 million over four years.

It gave an additional $20m for four years in 2019 and a $7.3m boost in 2020 due to Covid-19.

College of General Practitioners medical director Bryan Betty (pictured) said the Government should have fully funded palliative care when it brought out the End of Life Choice Act.

He says the current underfunded palliative care system created an “uneven playing field”.

Funding to provide good quality, consistent palliative care is needed throughout New Zealand, he says.


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