Challenges and strategies to improve the provision of end-of-life cancer care in rural and regional communities: Perspectives from Australian rural health professionals
Australian Journal of Rural Health
Objective: To identify challenges and strategies to improve the provision of end-of-life (EOL) cancer care in an underserved rural and regional Australian local health district (LHD) from the perspective of general practitioners (GPs) and specialist clinicians while exploring the benefits of adopting a generalist health care approach to delivering EOL care in rural and regional communities. Setting: Rural and regional Australia. Participants: General practitioners and palliative care and cancer care specialists (medical and nursing) involved in the provision of EOL care to people with advanced cancer in the rural and regional areas of an Australian LHD. Design: Qualitative descriptive study involving 22 participants in four face-to-face and online focus groups. Thematic analysis of the transcripts identified key issues affecting EOL care for people with advanced cancer in rural and regional areas of the LHD. Results: Four themes including geographical remoteness, system structures, medical management and expertise and training emerged from the focus groups. Key barriers to effective EOL care included insufficient remuneration for GPs and other clinicians (especially home visits), resource limitations, limited community awareness of palliative care and lack of confidence and training of clinicians. Continuity of care was identified as an important facilitator to effective EOL care. Participants suggested greater Medicare rebates for palliative care and home visits, adequate equipment and resources, technology-enabled clinician training and greater rural-based training for specialist PC clinicians may improve the provision of EOL care in regional and rural communities. Conclusions: Rural-based clinicians delivering EOL cancer care appear to be disproportionately affected by geographical challenges including resource and funding limitations. A multi-pronged strategy aimed at greater interdisciplinary collaboration, community awareness and greater resourcing and funding could help to improve the provision of EOL care in underserved rural and remote communities of Australia.
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