Signs of change in palliative care

Karen Macmillan is watching for clear signs that change is afoot in the push for universal access to palliative care in Canada.

This fall, the Senate will resume a second reading of Bill C-277, a private member’s bill that calls for a national palliative care strategy. Bill C-277 passed all three readings in the House of Commons last spring, with rare non-partisan support from all parties on a private member’s bill. Three readings must be passed in the Senate before Bill C-277 becomes law. 

Canada is at a turning point when it comes to palliative care. We need a national strategy so that everyone can access timely, quality care in the last phase of their life.

Karen is hopeful that the bill will move quickly through the Senate.

“The passing of the bill is a huge milestone," says Karen. "It is exactly what we need to move palliative care forward in Canada. It will hold the federal government accountable to Canadians for producing a framework on palliative care in the next five years," she adds.

"The bill calls for national standards for palliative care," explains Karen. “It will also require consistent education and training for palliative care workers. And it will clarify the supports that caregivers should have access to from coast to coast.”

Karen believes an essential piece of the new legislation is about research. “The bill calls for data to be collected from region to region on palliative care, to ensure that access and quality of palliative care is truly consistent," she notes. “I am a bit worried about what the future of this work looks like without it.”

“Ensuring that the suffering of our fellow citizens is alleviated is at the heart of a civil society…. It isn’t enough to care; Canada must turn its caring into commitment that ensures palliative care is a part of the Canadian health system and receives the attention and resources it needs.”

Introduction to Palliative Care Matters: How Canada’s Health System Needs to Change, National Consensus Statement, November 2016

Karen is executive lead for palliative care at Covenant Health, which has an international reputation for excellence in end-of-life care. Covenant Health is keen to play a larger role in palliative care nationally, and sponsored Palliative Care Matters in June in partnership with 13 national organizations. The vision of the Palliative Care Matters partnership is that all Canadians with life-limiting illnesses have timely access to quality, co-ordinated palliative care. The initiative included a public opinion survey, evidence reviews and a consensus development conference, where a lay panel of 12 Canadians responded to the finding and prepared a statement and recommendations. Covenant Health also hosted the 2017 International Society of Advance Care Planning and End of Life Care conference this September in Banff. 

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