Palliative care cash must be down payment on a larger repair project: advocates

The federal government needs to ensure there is money for palliative care in the budget next week as part of a down payment on a much larger repair project, health advocates say.

OTTAWA — The federal government needs to ensure there is money for palliative care in the budget next week as part of a down payment on a much larger repair project, health advocates say.

The Canadian Cancer Society said the Liberal government needs to urgently address the glaring holes in end-of-life care.

The debate following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on assisted death has shown people often fall through the cracks of the health-care system and improvements are needed to address the patchwork of care available, said Gabriel Miller, the society’s public issues director.

During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to spend $3-billion over the next four years to improve access to home care, including family and palliative care.

Miller said the cancer society expects to see the government follow through on this investment, but he warned money cannot be used just to camouflage the biggest cracks in the system.

The funding needs to signal more than just temporary relief, he added.

“It needs to promise permanent solutions,” Miller said.

“That means really beginning with a recognition of the scale of the problem, the government’s responsibility to fix that problem for everyone … and then to set really clear targets and timelines for making the change.”

Access to palliative care is an essential part of the end-of-life discussion, said Cindy Forbes, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“No one should be choosing an assisted-death for a lack of either palliative care or chronic pain management or other medical services that are available to some Canadians.”

Northern Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus agrees and has been pushing for a national palliative care strategy.

Angus made the proposal, which received widespread support, during the last Parliament but he said the previous government failed to act.

There is now a sense of urgency for the federal government to tackle the palliative care problem because of the upcoming right-to-die legislation, Angus said.

“We’ll have a situation where it is possible to have the right to die in Canada, but not necessarily the right to access palliative care — that just doesn’t seem fair,” he said.

“Because the Supreme Court has made its decision, because the federal government is going to move on right-to-die, they also need to put up the money and put up a plan to work with the provinces and the territories on offering good quality, palliative care.”

The provinces and territories are working to tackle this issue but it is clear a well-co-ordinated, effective system is needed in Canada, said John Fraser, parliamentary assistant to Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins.

Fraser said he became passionate about the issue when his father was able to access palliative care.

“It was a very humane way for him to pass on,” he said.

The court’s decision on assisted death essentially boils down to a matter of choice, Fraser added.

“In order for people to have choice, they need choices,” he said. “In that context, we need to improve palliative care.”

In an interview with The Canadian Press late last year, Health Minister Jane Philpott acknowledged palliative care is inadequate for many.

Philpott, who spent 30 years working as a doctor in Canada and abroad before entering political life, said the health-care system needs to be reformed to reflect the demand for care as close to home as possible.

“I know that Canada is flush with experts who have done very well in delivering palliative care and addressing the needs of Canadians at the end of life so we will be consulting broadly in terms of how to do this best,” she said.

Miller said Philpott is absolutely right that structural reform is needed to address the palliative care crisis but he said this can’t be used as an excuse for not taking urgent action.

“When your house has cracks in the foundation or a hole in the roof, you take immediate steps to stop the worst of the damage and then you have a clear plan to fix what needs fixing for the long term,” Miller said.

“What we have … is a system that has been repaired with Band-Aids and patches over and over again for decades and as a result, it is costing us more money and we still haven’t fixed the fundamental problems.”

Just Posted

Shipping oil by rail questioned

Red Deer-area mayors respond

Country star Gord Bamford and The Reclaws perform free Games concert Friday

Show starts at 6:30 p.m. in heated dome off Celebration Plaza in downtown Red Deer

Survey looks at social isolation among older men

Partnership between Red Deer College and Golden Circle Resource Centre

Peruvian brothers travel nearly 8,000 km to volunteer at Canada Winter Games in Red Deer

Italo and Mirko Del Castillo say Canadian warmth contrasts with twinter cold

Pride Days celebrated for first time at Canada Winter Games on Feb. 21 and 28

Pride Days are another first for Red Deer’s 2019 Canada Winter Games.… Continue reading

Gardening: What are you planting in 2019?

What’s new in plants for 2019? Checking catalogues, greenhouses and stores will… Continue reading

Opinion: I spy another energy hypocrite

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The mittens provided to… Continue reading

Canada’s bobsleigh team races World Cup on Calgary home track facing closure

CALGARY — Canada’s skeleton and bobsled teams will race a World Cup… Continue reading

Italy becomes ninth international football league to join forces with CFL

TORONTO — Add Italy to the growing list of international football federations… Continue reading

Toronto Defiant Overwatch academy team to be known as the Montreal Rebellion

MONTREAL — The Toronto Defiant’s Overwatch academy team will be known as… Continue reading

Canadian fashion and design insiders recall Karl Lagerfeld’s charm, ingenuity

TORONTO — Several Canadian fashion and design experts who knew couture icon… Continue reading

Millennial Money: Make your funds move at the speed of life

Change is constant — especially when you’re young. Chances are you’ll cycle… Continue reading

TSB says improved tankers involved in Manitoba derailment that spilled crude

ST. LAZARE, Man. — Federal investigators say CN rail cars that spilled… Continue reading

Most Read