After more than 14 years lobbying state and federal governments for a dedicated hospice in Northern Tasmania, advocates have finally gained a commitment.
On Wednesday Labor Leader Rebecca White announced they would establish a 10-bed palliative care unit within the Launceston General Hospital precinct, if elected as a majority government.
With a financial commitment of $5 million for capital works and $2.8 million for workforce development and transition of services, Ms White said everybody deserved to die with dignity.
"There aren't enough dedicated palliative care beds and we know that there a people sadly who are dying in the back of ambulances, or in our emergency department, because they don't have access to the specialist care they deserve," she said.
"Everybody deserves to be able to die dignity. To have their friends around them, being in a loving environment, and not dying in an emergency department which is sadly what's happening right now in Tasmania."
Northern Tasmania has been without a dedicated hospice since the closure of Philip Oakden House in 2007.
Since then, Friends of Northern Hospice has been calling for one to be reinstated, with a business case first put to the state government in 2016 to convert government-owned Launceston building Allambi into a purpose-built hospice and palliative care centre.
It proposes a model of care that enables all specialist palliative care services to be co-located in one building, with 24-hour access, integrated in or within close proximity to the LGH.
However group spokeswoman Barb Baker said until today, the group had never had a financial commitment from government for the plan to become a reality.
"It's been a very long journey for us and at times very disheartening. But at last we have a political party that recognises that Launceston needs a dedicated hospice for the people in Northern Tasmania," she said.
"Previous health ministers and governments have not really seen the need ... so I think we have been sadly let down. The people who are terminally ill and dying in the North have been let down."
Labor health spokesman Bastian Seidel said the plan put forward by the Friends of Northern Hospice "stacked up".
He said Labor was committed to finding solutions for integrated hospice solutions - including additional staff.
"It's important to have dedicated funding put aside to ensure we can actually pay for the workforce that is needed to provide dignity and space for the final days of those people," he said.
"The workforce [already] exists to a certain extent. We have some palliative carers who work in the community, some palliative care specialists, but it is at a stretch. That's why often we see fragmentation of care.
"That's why we are committed to employ more nurses on a permanent basis, more allied health practitioners, more specialist medical doctors for the LGH and for our community, to ensure continuity of care for palliative care patients."
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However, Labor spokesman and former Health Minister Michael Ferguson said a purpose built hospice was included as part of Calvary's co-located hospital project and that Labor hadn't "done their homework".
"This represents a continuation of publicly-funded and privately-insured palliative care beds at the current Melwood Unit, which will be transformed in the new co-located facilities with pleasant gardens and easy access for families - much better than occurs at present," he said.
"Calvary Health CEO Martin Bowles has confirmed to me again today that current clinical service planning for the co-located hospital indicated a 10 bed service offering palliative and hospice services - including flexible provision for end of life patients who want to be able to move between the hospice and their home."
Health Minister Sarah Courtney said the latest pledge from the Labor party was just the latest example of Dr Seidel putting politics over patients.
"Yesterday he doubled down on his plan to reinstate birthing services at the Mersey Community Hospital, against expert advice from the AMA [Australian Medical Association]," she said.
"A feasibility study report found the concept of a standalone hospice was not viable, however did recommend further improvements to existing in-patient and community palliative care services.
"This is exactly what the Liberals have been committed to, and a re-elected majority Gutwein government will commit $21 million to improve access to palliative and end of life care services for Tasmanians."
Ms Courtney said hospice and other subacute and end of life care would be further explored as part of its Our Healthcare Future process.
"If re-elected, we look forward to working with all stakeholders, including Friends of Northern Hospice, in this process."
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