Health Canada’s Action Plan on Palliative Care gets mixed reviews

Health Canada recently released an Action Plan on Palliative Care. (Photo by Roger Lemoyne, Living Lessons)

By Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

[OTTAWA – CCN] — Health Canada’s five-year Action Plan on Palliative Care  announced Aug. 20, 2019 is a “lackluster” effort that fails to commit enough resources says the Ontario Member of Parliament whose private member’s Bill C-277 led to the Action Plan.

“There was such a big opportunity to do more for palliative care and they’ve really missed the boat,” said Conservative Marilyn Gladu, MP for Sarnia-Lambton, ON.  “Seventy-per cent of Canadians have zero access to palliative care.”

“We need to see more hospice facilities; more home care; expansion of existing programs for paramedics to deliver palliative care and work to address the gap in palliative care physicians, nurses and personal support workers across the county,” she said.

Gladu’s private members’ Bill C-277 An Act to Establish a Palliative Care Framework, which passed with all-party support in late 2017, called for the federal government to develop the Action Plan in consultation with the provinces, territories and stakeholders.

One of those stakeholders, Pallium Canada – a national non-profit organization promoting palliative care – welcomed the Action Plan as a “step in the right direction.”  

“The Action Plan outlines best practices that Pallium has championed for many years such as a focus on supporting both the health care system and the communities in which we live in order to provide better palliative care to Canadians” said Pallium’s Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Moat in an Aug. 28 news release.

“Pallium is a critical partner to bringing the Action Plan to life in a number of ways, including building the capacity of health care professionals to be able to provide a palliative care approach, especially for underserved populations and accelerating the uptake of the Compassionate Communities model across Canada.”

Pallium Canada’s release noted the key role it played in consultations when Bill C-277 went before committees in the House of Commons and in the Senate, and in later consultation with Health Canada.

“The Action Plan is certainly a step in the right direction, but like any blueprint, the implementation—with measurable outcomes for Canadians—is the bottom line,” said Moat. “Funding the Action Plan is key going forward, and we want to help ensure that the government succeeds in playing a strong leadership role promoting palliative care innovation across the country through its stakeholder groups.”

Pallium applauds Health Canada for the public awareness components of the Action Plan.

“Public education will help deepen a national understanding of what a palliative care approach has to offer Canadians,” said Moat. “We look forward to the government’s next steps which recognize the value of implementing a Compassionate Community approach.”

“Pallium takes pride in being among the first to adopt and promote the Compassionate Community theory of practice here in Canada,” he said. “It is a powerful model and one we hope to continue to formalize with community partners across the country moving forward.”

The Action Plan calls for: raising awareness of how palliative care can improve quality of life until end of life: supporting improvement of palliative care skills for health care providers, families and caregivers; increasing data collection and research; improving access to palliative care for underserved populations; and improving access to “culturally sensitive” palliative care for Indigenous Canadians.

“The Action Plan is certainly a step in the right direction, but like any blueprint, the implementation—with measurable outcomes for Canadians—is the bottom line,” said Moat. “Funding the Action Plan is key going forward, and we want to help ensure that the government succeeds in playing a strong leadership role promoting palliative care innovation across the country through its stakeholder groups.”

The Health Canada announcement pointed out the federal government has committed $6 billion over 10 years to provincial and territorial governments for palliative and home care services and another $184.6 million over five years for palliative care for Indigenous communities.

“What we need is to put the resources in place to address the gaps in partnership with the provinces and territories,” Gladu said. “Nobody needs to raise awareness on palliative care. Everyone has a family member or friend who’s been touched by the need for palliative care.”

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