Medical Service Director Annual Report

A year passes quickly when we face challenges as we have within the last 12 months.  This last year can be encapsulated as 'COVID-focussed', for the impacts and priorities of the medical team during this time.  As an organisation we pivoted our clinical focus to community based care, allowing our services to continue supporting those most vulnerable patients in the safest way we could, under the pressure of the pandemic.  I have only appreciation and praise for the tireless work and patience the medical team has shown during this period.  They have had to adjust to constant changes in protocol and guidance, often driven from top-down governmental mandates, changing on almost a daily basis.

Dr Diana Rae will be retiring at the end of January after years of dedicated service to Te Kahu Pairuri Hospice Taranaki.  Diana's leadership has been crucial to hospice over the years, along with her musical skills and contributions in so many areas of our organisation.  Diana is currently on sabbatical undertaking a project investigating Locality Networks, which will prove crucial in our strategic planning for the health reforms forthcoming.

Our second very sad loss is Dr Nina Bray will also be leaving Hospice in the new year.  Nina's clinical leadership as our previous sole Consultant Specialist, has been invaluable to the medical team over the years she has worked for Hospice.  She has also led and fostered the introduction of our junior doctor post.  Although Nina is leaving us for now, we are ever hopeful that we may be able to welcome her back to the team at some time in the future.

To counteract the sadness of team members leaving we have been hugely lucky to engage the services of Dr Ilse Hofmeyr to join our team.  She brings huge experience and skills from her time working with the Whanganui hospice team and will be moving into a more consolidated role in the new year as Diana transitions.

Perhaps our biggest achievement as a medical group in the last year has been passing our Medical Accreditation review process.  This involved a great deal of preparation and the whole team providing information and interviews with an expert panel.  Along with very positive reviews of the quality of care provided, there were useful recommendations, that will be used in the planning of our clinical services in the future.  We are now credentialled as a medical service for the next 5 years.

The medical group have continued to work on other projects that will allow us to continually improve the service we provide to our patients.  These include: the Shared Goals of Care Project in the Taranaki Hospital (Tom B); opioid prescribing teaching for medical PGY2 and Registrar Group in Taranaki Hospital (Tom R); GPEP GP registrar trainee day (whole team); Paramedical student training placement (while team); Sublingual PRN medication project (Nina and Ilse), Medical Task Management IT project (Carissa and Nina); Mauri Mate project (Diana); Anticipatory Prescribing Orders Project (Paola); Community Engagement project (Paola); EOLCA working group (Tom R & Nina).

Tom Bull also completed a 3 month sabbatical with in the DHB during this last year.  He undertook a hugely important project investigating the provision of Palliative Care in Aged Residential Care.  All the evidence points towards the aged care sector being the are where Palliative Care needs will grow the most in the coming decades.

The adoption of the End of Life Choice Act into law in New Zealand has continued to present challenges to components of our Specialist Palliative Care practice.  Unanticipated operational issues have been identified through our experience of shared patients.  However, such challenges have been managed effectively and with compassion when identified.  We continue to learn, but most importantly render, optimal patient-focussed Special Palliative Care to all our patients no matter what choices they make.

The enormous change and uncertainty that the new Health New Zealand model brings can be confronting.  I believe however that it holds an opportunity to address and improve the equity of the service we provide.  We are an innovative medical group and organisation that is open to change and is resolutely patient-focussed.  We remain well prepared for the unknown future that lies ahead.  By incorporating recommendations from our Medical Accreditation process we will be focussing on our core work and how we might best achieve this for the benefit of our patients, whilst ensuring we build a sustainable model of care for our organisation.

I would like to thank all the medical team for their ongoing compassion and commitment to the optimal palliative care of all our patients.

Dr Tom Reid, Medical Director

02 Dec 2022