The undertaking is given in the Health Department’s newly published “Statement of Strategy” for 2016-2019.
It means health services will foot the bill for the annual running costs, including staffing, of any new hospices if the building of the hospice is funded by local communities.
The department’s plan commits to encouraging the development of hospice units for the Midlands which incorporates Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath and the North East which incorporates Louth, Cavan, Monaghan and Meath.
The Strategy states: “We will bring into operation further hospices, the construction of which local communities have funded. We will encourage the development of a hospice in the Midlands and North East and home care in regions where there are no hospices.”
The Irish Hospice Foundation welcomed the Strategy.
Angela Edghill, Advocacy and Public Engagement Manager at the IHF said: “Not having a full service means patients with complex palliative symptoms that cannot be managed in homecare have to be transferred to an acute hospital, often through a busy Emergency Department. This means many more people die in acute hospitals.
“Double the percentage of people with cancer who die in the Midlands area die in an acute hospital; compared to other areas where there is a full Level III service and the resultant specialist palliative care services that come with them.”
Ms Edghill said: “The IHF believes that everyone is entitled to prompt access to good quality palliative and end-of-life care when they need it, regardless of where they live. People in the Midlands and North East counties are being denied the full range of services available in other areas. The Department of Health has committed to funding the operation of new hospices that are built through local community funding. This affords another opportunity to support and strengthen the existing palliative care services while developing a full multi-disciplinary homecare and inpatient palliative care service. “
Ms Edghill said:“More than 74% of people in Ireland say that they want to be cared for at home at end of life. Only 24% of people get to fulfil that wish. Our programmes are directed at supporting improvements which could enable more people to die well in the location of their choice.”
The Department plan pledges to ensure appropriate care pathways are in place to improve cancer services and to invest in end-of- life care including the provision of “end-of life- care” during the perinatal period, infancy, childhood and adulthood.
The Department’s strategy also commits to ‘work with non governmental organisations to improve information and awareness of end of life services, particularly those which provide people with palliative care in the location they choose.’
It commits to working with non-governmental organisation to improve information and awareness of end of life services, particularly those which provide people with palliative care in the location they choose.
Health Minister Simon Harris said in his foreword to the Strategy that “changing healthcare” needs have informed the plan.
He said: “We have an ageing population. People are living longer which means their needs will become greater, more diverse and more complex. We also have the highest birth rate in Europe. These trends are very welcome for Irish society as a whole.
“They also, however, generate increased demand for services. We must recognise and address the problems patients face trying to access services whether from emergency departments or from waiting lists; the severe pressure on very dedicated staff; and increasing demand and pressure on resources.”