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Palliative Care: It’s time for change

The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) recently released a report calling on all levels of government to improve access to specialized palliative care services.

“With attention focused on developing a new health accord between the federal government and the provinces and territories on health care, there is no better time to address serious deficiencies in the care provided to patients requiring palliative care,” said Dr. David Henderson, president of the CSPCP.

The report – “How to improve palliative care in Canada: A call to action for federal, provincial, territorial, regional and local decisions makers” – provides detailed recommendations to ensure that all Canadians have access to high-quality palliative care. (If you don’t want to read the entire thing, you might be interested in the executive summary.)

Summary of recommendations

  1. Framework: Implement a high-quality, cost-effective palliative care service delivery model.
  2. Funding: Invest funding in physician shortfalls, teaching and education, research and infrastructure.
  3. Standards: Set, monitor and enforce national standards for palliative care in Canada.
  4. Recruitment: Promote recruitment and plan retention initiatives for palliative care providers.
  5. Coverage: Standardize provincial drug plans and health supplies coverage.
  6. Technology: Promote technological innovation in practice and minimally invasive palliative procedures.

The recommendation surrounding recruitment and retention should be of particular interest to Nova Scotians. The CSPCP report states that, on average, only one in three Canadians has access to specialized palliative care services. In Nova Scotia, the situation is bleaker: the province only has 12 specialized palliative care physicians. That’s simply not enough doctors to provide the care that Nova Scotia’s aging, sick population (178,000 people over the age of 65, with a high rate of chronic disease) needs.

The recommendation promoting technology is also of extreme importance. This would encompass things such as telemedicine – the ability to diagnose and treat patients remotely. Patients who live in rural and remote areas, are disabled or incarcerated, or prefer to receive care in their own homes would benefit from this.

Be sure to check out Palliative Care: What You Need to Know for more information.

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