03 September, 2020

Harbour Hospice is fortunate to have a depth of professional skill and experience in our clinical team at a time when palliative care experts are in short supply.

Medical Officer Heidi Conway leads our Palliative Outcomes Initiative (Poi) team alongside her duties as a Hospice Doctor. Before joining us in 2017, she worked in general practice and as a medical officer in community geriatric care. She developed a passion for palliative care while working as a house surgeon in Auckland Hospital’s orthopaedics department in 1997.

“I realised a lot of our time was spent caring for people in their last months of life and, in fact, some patients had sustained injury because they were near the end of life,” Heidi says. “In medical school there was a lot of focus on cure and rehabilitation, and sometimes quality of life wasn’t put at the forefront.”

5 Heidi Conway

The Poi team addresses this issue by partnering with health carers in the community to ensure everyone receives the best possible end of life care, whether they’re a hospice patient or not.

Our Poi team works with doctors’ surgeries and aged-care. They support nurses, doctors and carers to identify patients who are in the last 6-12 months of life and develop strategies to improve quality of life.

This is ideal for patients with chronic illnesses who don’t need specialist care or feel they’re not ready for Hospice, because it’s not a formal admission to our service. “Palliative care is beautifully provided in primary care; we’re just supporting each other to do the best job.”

One GP noticed a significant improvement in the identification of palliative care needs, which meant they could work with those patients and their families to put appropriate care in place.

Poi was developed by the Auckland Specialist Hospices three years ago using special innovations funding from the Ministry of Health. This funding is due to end in June next year and the Hospices are working hard to ensure the programme continues.

“I’m passionate to see Poi reach its full potential and hope we get the opportunity to do this together with our community.”