Fears about the future of Lake Macquarie’s palliative care services have been voiced by local MPs following reports of a proposed shut-down of the Calvary Mater Hospital’s after hours home visit service.

It was revealed last week that the office of Newcastle MP Tim Crackanthorp had been contacted by concerned staff from the Mater, who warned that the hospital’s 24 hour palliative care service may be dropped in favour of an after-hours telephone hotline.

It is estimated that 300 people currently utilise the Mater’s after hours palliative care service.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper spoke in parliament on Tuesday, expressing concerns about the inequality of palliative care services across the Lake Macquarie region.

Residents who need palliative care who live north of the Fennel Bay bridge are currently serviced under the Calvary Mater’s scheme, receiving 24 hour care. However, residents outside the Mater’s “20 kilometre radius”, in areas such as Toronto and Morisset, are serviced by Westlakes Community Health Service, which already has an after-hours telephone hotline in place of round-the-clock care.

Greg Piper explains, “What we have to the north, for most of the area, is what I would call a high quality service that gives 24/7 nursing assistance to people who need palliative care. If you live to the south [of the Fennel Bay bridge] you get a budget service that doesn’t go anywhere near providing what other people get.”

Mr Piper is urging the government to consider the economic savings made by keeping patients who wish to stay at home out of hospital beds before palliative care services are scrapped. “Many people now wish to pass away at home…and the cost of hospital beds is also very high. We should take that into consideration.”

A spokesperson for Hunter New England Health last week refused to rule out changes to the Mater’s current palliative care scheme, citing the safety of workers going on house calls late at night as a cause for concern.

Lake Macquarie MP, Greg Piper.