Hospice and Palliative Care Month of Action


Hospice and Palliative Care Month of Action October 25th, 2016

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about end-of-life hospice palliative care. This is an issue that affects us all, whether we are planning palliative care for a family member, a loved one, or planning it for ourselves.

October 8 marked World Hospice and Palliative Care Day. On that day the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association launched what they are calling their Month of Action. Their goal is to encourage Canadians to advocate for quality hospice palliative care from all levels of government.

Throughout the month, they will be providing Canadians with resources so that they can engage the media as well as their provincial and federal representatives on this issue. The aim of the association is to dispel several myths surrounding the palliative approach to care.

The first myth is that palliative care is most appropriate for patients who will likely die within weeks. In reality, a palliative care approach means focusing on improving quality of life and focusing on pain and symptom management for those with life-limiting illnesses.

The second myth is that starting palliative care signals the stopping of treatment and that it marks the end of chronic disease management. In fact, honourable senators, some treatments are effective for improving symptoms and increasing quality of life, and so they continue as a comfort measure.

Third, it is commonly believed that only specialists can provide palliative care. Honourable senators, a palliative care approach should be part of providing comprehensive primary care and should be part of the skills and competencies of all health care providers who are caring for patients with serious life-limiting illnesses.

Another myth is that raising the topic of palliative care with patients and caregivers robs them of hope. In fact, it is very important for patients to be able to articulate what is important to them through advance care planning. Individuals are able to reflect on their own values and wishes and to communicate their future health and personal care preferences.

Honourable senators, this Month of Action will culminate with a conference entitled "Palliative Care Matters: Building National Consensus" here in Ottawa from November 7 to 9.

Honourable senators, Margaret Ann Jacobs, National President of the Catholic Women's League of Canada, recently wrote a letter to Health Minister Jane Philpott. In the letter she asks the government "to identify palliative care as an insured health service covered under the Canada Health Act [and] to develop a national strategy for uniform standards and delivery of palliative care as defined by the World Health Organization." I believe this is a reasonable request by the CWL that would benefit all Canadians.

Hospice palliative care can be provided in places such as a hospital, a residential hospice, at home, or in a long-term care home. We know that most Canadians want hospice palliative care. Unfortunately, fewer than 30 per cent have access to such care. Honourable senators, hospice palliative care should be accessible to all Canadians, no matter where they live in our great country. Thank you.