Victorian CEO advocates for innovative palliative care inspired by Singapore

Sonya Smart, Chief Executive Officer, VMCH

A recent visit to Singapore has inspired Victorian CEO Sonya Smart to reimagine how palliative care is delivered within her organisation and beyond.

As Palliative Care Week unfolds, aiming to spark conversations about end-of-life support, Ms Smart, CEO of VMCH, shares her transformative insights from an exploratory trip to Singapore.

VMCH, an award-winning for-purpose aged and disability organisation, provides palliative care to aged care residents and through its specialised palliative comfort care centre, O’Neill House, in Prahran.

O’Neill House won the Palliative Care category in the 2022 Future of Ageing Awards – read more here.

While O’Neill House epitomises tranquillity and peace, Ms Smart’s visit to Singapore revealed new possibilities.

Oasis@Outram: A Model for Change

A standout from the visit was Oasis@Outram, a day hospice run by HCA Hospice Care, Singapore’s largest home hospice care provider. This inter-generational facility offers a plethora of activities, including music therapy, arts and crafts, pet-assisted therapy, exercise classes, and community outings.

Unique features include an in-house open bar, a greenhouse, a cinema, and a dental clinic, addressing one of palliative care’s most overlooked needs. The hospice even features Instagram walls for photo books for families. All services, including transport, meals, and activities, are free of charge.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” Ms Smart shared. “Oasis ensures you keep having memorable moments and aren’t isolated at home. People are empowered to grow, develop new skills, and experience new things.”

A New Vision for Australia

Ms Smart highlights the stark contrast between Oasis’s vibrant approach and the more reserved perception of palliative care in Australia.

“One in four Victorians who die each year do so without adequate access to palliative care. Many are isolated at home or in hospitals in a highly medicalised setting. Palliative care is often hidden away because no one wants to talk about dying.”

Sonya Smart

The Federal Government recently announced a $25 million investment in the Comprehensive Palliative Care in Aged Care (CPiAC) initiative to improve end-of-life care for older Australians in residential aged care.

While this funding is welcomed, Ms Smart advocates for more community-based hospices like Oasis@Outram to revolutionise palliative care delivery.

“Running palliative care in Australia is expensive. O’Neill House operates primarily through aged care funds and a fee-for-service model, which isn’t financially sustainable for many organisations. VMCH contributes funds annually to keep this unique service available. We need more facilities like this to provide greater choice and ensure people’s last experiences are joyful and filled with special moments with family and friends,” Ms Smart added.

As National Palliative Care Week continues, Ms Smart’s experience highlights the importance of rethinking palliative care to ensure it is not just about waiting to die, but about living fully until the very end.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here