Palliative care report says end-of-life support in Atlantic Canada not good enough
A new palliative care report released by the Canadian Cancer Society says there’s a major gap in the health care system when it comes to providing end-of-life support.
The report states that fewer than 50% of Atlantic Canadians who die in hospital receive palliative care.
“Canadians would prefer to die in a home setting and where they’re dying right now is either in emergency rooms or in ICU departments,” said Barbara Stead-Coyle, Nova Scotia CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society.
Hospice Halifax is hoping to offer improved end-of-life care — it’s leasing two buildings from the Atlantic School of Theology with places to renovate them into Nova Scotia’s first residential hospice.
“It’s for people at end-of-life and their families where we try and provide a real home life environment,” said Wendy Fraser, Hospice Halifax CEO. “We have all the medical staff to provide pain management needs, but we also really work on the psycho-social needs of the family.”
Fraser said about 80 per cent of people want to die at home but only 20 per cent can do that.
“What ends up happening is pain management isn’t controlled, or the caregivers [are] exhausted, some crisis will happen and the person who’s ill ends up going to hospital and then that’s where they die,” she said.
Lisa Tramley spent the last days of her mother’s life in the palliative care unit of the Victoria General Hospital.
“Palliative care helped a lot, just knowing that the staff were capable and trained to deal with those particular situations,” she said.
In 2010, her mother was admitted to the Halifax Infirmary with a brain tumour. After two weeks of shuffling between floors, she was transferred to the palliative care unit.
She said despite her family’s long wait, they were among the lucky ones.
“Unfortunately a lot of patients are either put up at the infirmary or on other floors at the VG where they don’t have that specialty staff that are trained in palliative care,” she said.
Stead-Coyle said it’s a gap in the system that needs to be addressed.
“We certainly know that the federal and provincial governments are meeting at this moment discussing the future of health care in this country, and we strongly encourage them to put palliative care on their agenda,”she said.
More information on the palliative care report is available online.
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