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Dr Brian McDonald retires

After 17 years as Director of Palliative Care Medicine for Peninsula Health and PHH, Dr Brian McDonald retired earlier this year. Here are a few of his reflections:

What has changed the most since you started?

There are certainly more resources available within the community. There’s also been a shift in terms

of counselling (it used to be bereavement focused) - now there’s counselling available essentially throughout the course of the illness after referral to palliative care services. We’ve seen an increase in the number of people accessing palliative care and people are now talking more about palliative care in all aspects of health care. It’s not limited to palliative care services.

What would you like to see in the future?

I would like to see an emphasis in offering additional intensive supports to facilitate patients dying at home if that’s what they or their families would really like to do. I’d also like more funded clinical staff to provide rapid response when things are reaching the point where admission to an inpatient facility, whether it hospital or palliative care unit, is required.

What do you see as the benefits of community based palliative care?

The benefits are multiple in terms of bits of this and bits of that. Even if it is half day volunteer support can be very important for some families. Good medical care and that is usually provided through the visiting nurses and family doctor and in most situations that works very well. There are more complex symptom management issues and it’s easier to manage that in many situations by admission, sometimes and often with a view to discharge back to the community, but if there were more medical time available then that could change the needs in terms of admission.

With Dr McDonald’s retirement, Dr Melanie Benson has now joined the PHH team as a Palliative Care Physician in a seconded role.

“I have worked my way around the bay from Werribee Mercy to Peter Mac to the Alfred and currently at Peninsula Health and PHH. My past experience included a research Fellowship that led to an interest in optimising care where Palliative Care interfaces with different facets of the health sector. My other clinical interest is in medical education and clinical ethics. It’s great to join the PHH team and support them in the great work they do,” she said.