New palliative care volunteers for Fairfield Hospital

  • by Kate Bowman
  • August 16, 2018

Relaxing the mind. Meditation. Support.

They are the three things Buddhist nun Thi Nga La said she will do to help patients nearing the end of life and their loved ones as part of a new palliative care volunteer program at Fairfield Hospital.

Launched on Friday, the new program will provide additional support for palliative care patients and is in addition to the volunteer program already supporting patients in their homes in the community.

Ms Nga La is one of the first volunteers for the program and will support patients from the Vietnamese community.

“The extra culturally appropriate support at this time is very important for patients and their loved ones and it is a privilege for me to assist them,’’ she said.

For fellow volunteer Susie Thomas, the pilot program is about “finishing the job”.

A nurse for 40 years, she often wouldn’t have time to to sit down and listen and talk to palliative care patients.

“So now that I am retired I want to spend quality time and do the things I didn’t have time to do in the nursing world,” she said.

“I lost my best friend to cancer so I know what’s its like to see someone go through palliative care and the importance of listening and being there to support.

“The staff are busy and sometimes patients have concerns and they don’t want to talk to staff so they can talk to an independent person for support at a crucial time. So that’s our role to support patients and their families with whatever they need.”

That can be as simple as listening or giving a gentle massage.

Or perhaps listening to quiet music and even sitting in silence.

There is no time limit. There is no pressure.

The volunteers role is to compliment the work of clinicians. Volunteers will receive free specialised training over a six-week period to prepare for their roles

The hospital are seeking volunteers like Susie and Thi to join the new program. 

South Western Sydney Local Health District Palliative care volunteer coordinator Arlene Roache, said representatives from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities are being particularity sought to provide patients with culturally appropriate support.

“Because of the cultural diversity of the Fairfield community, we are welcoming people from various cultural backgrounds to be a part of our volunteer service,’’ Ms Roache said.

“We are introducing the service to the hospital after staff and community members identified a need for volunteers to provide additional support for palliative care patients.

“The volunteers come to the hospital one-day-a-week and support patients that have been referred to them by a palliative care nurse.”

Palliative care support has been a focus of the state government investing $27.1 million in 2018-19.

This follows the record additional $100 million investment over four years for palliative care services, which commenced in 2017-18 on top of the estimated $210 million spent each year on palliative care across NSW. 

They have also invested $330,000 next financial year in the Palliative Care Volunteer Support Services Program, run by Palliative Care NSW, which provides support, advice, education and governance to the volunteer manager networks across NSW. 

  • For more information on the Fairfield Hospital palliative care volunteer program and how you can help contact Arlene Roache on 8738 9755.

Story and photo credit – Chris Boulous, Fairfield City Champion.

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