Specialist Palliative Rural Telehealth Service (SPaRTa) supporting rural and remote families this Palliative Care Week

Read time will display here.

SPaRTa patient Burnett Joyce, pictured with wife Louise.

SPaRTa patient Burnett Joyce, pictured with wife Louise.

National Palliative Care Week, held 22–28 May 2022, is Australia's largest annual initiative to increase understanding of the many benefits of palliative care – this year’s theme is It's your right.

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service Acting Clinical Director Specialist Palliative Care (SPaRTa Clinical Lead) Dr Prem Ram said Queensland Health’s SPaRTa partnered with rural clinicians to care for patients in rural and remote areas of Queensland.

“The goal is to provide a better patient experience and reduce preventable hospital admissions,” Dr Ram said.

“Patients can receive this telehealth service in their local hospital or outpatient clinic, residential aged care facility, GP practice and even in their own home.”

Dr Ram said the Sunshine Coast SPaRTa hub supported Wide Bay, Central Queensland and Central West Queensland; while three other Queensland Health SPaRTa hubs serviced the rest of the state.

Louise Joyce heard about SPaRTa after her husband Burnett required specialist palliative care. The couple were travelling for six hours from their cattle property near Theodore to the Sunshine Coast for pain relief and radiation treatment.

“As Burnett deteriorated, any movement was painful and this trip was a stressful and difficult ordeal,” she said.

It was Burnett’s doctor at Selangor Private Hospital in Nambour who recommended Dr Ram and SPaRTa.

“He was so wonderful; I knew that everything was being done that could be done to make Burnett at ease. 

“When Burnett was really unwell, he wanted to return home to the property that he loved – SPaRTa and Dr Ram made this happen.”

Mrs Joyce and her daughter cared for Burnett in the family home for as long as they were able, and then he was admitted to their local hospital.

She said that SPaRTa enabled Burnett to receive specialist care a shorter 45-minute drive from home, where he knew the doctors and nurses, and the family could spend every day with him.

“The sessions with Dr Ram were done by video link with Burnett’s local doctor also involved.

“Burnett was very comforted just knowing Dr Ram was in on the video link-up.

“SPaRTa gives care, consideration and support when the patient is near the end of life; my daughter and I are very thankful for that.”

Background:

SPaRTa supports clinicians in rural and remote areas of Queensland to provide palliative and end-of-life care for patients in their home, residential aged care facility or inpatient setting using telehealth technology.

This improves patient access to specialist palliative care in their local community and increases the knowledge and skills of rural and remote workforces in providing palliative care.

Specialist palliative care services can now be delivered on a consistent and sustainable basis in areas where it has not been previously possible.

The telehealth model helps address the challenges of geography, workforce limitation and patient mobility. 

Initially, Queensland Health established SPaRTa with non-recurrent funding for 2019–2020, extended to 2020–2021 and 2021–2022. 

Queensland Health will allocate recurrent funding from 2023–24 onwards.

The Sunshine Coast SPaRTa Hub won the 2021 Palliative Care in Queensland Innovation in Palliative Care Award.