The recent opening of the new children’s hospice in Brisbane, Hummingbird House, adds significantly to the support for children and their families who need residential-based respite and palliative care services often over an extended period of time before the end of their young lives.

In the US the picture is very different, with currently only two dedicated children’s hospices offering residential support – George Mark Children’s Hospice (California) and Ryan House (Arizona).

Hummingbird House is the third centre of its type in Australia, adding to the work being done by Very Special Kids (Victoria) and Bear Cottage (NSW).

Commenting on paediatric palliative care in the US Eleanor Cummins explains that by comparison with adults, the support needed by children is often long-term, intensive (in order to meet complex health needs) and more likely to involve additional services (social work, art therapy). US health insurers tend to reimburse on a flat-fee basis, she writes, and so it is difficult for health care providers to achieve economies of scale in service delivery to paediatric patients.

 “Because insurance tends to reimburse one flat daily fee for patients receiving end-of-life care, hospices can divert the money they save on one stable patient to another patient in need of more intensive care. Because almost all pediatric patients require intensive and long-term care, and the overall number of pediatric patients is small, the average cost of care in this population remains high, as there are few “cheap” patients to offset the costs of more “expensive” patients.

Read the full story by Eleanor Cummins here.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jupiterimages/Thinkstock.