For people with life-limiting illnesses, palliative care enables quality of life, dignity and a sense of control
OTTAWA, ON –
A recent report by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), titled Analyzing Hospice Palliative Care Across Canada: A report on federal, provincial, territorial and community actions, has found that governments across Canada are falling short of delivering quality palliative care for people with progressive illnesses like cancer, particularly in hospice where beds are few and far between. This is the first time data like this has been available since 2017.
Hospice settings provide critical supportive care for people at the end of their life, and best practices suggest that Canada should have 7 hospice beds per 100,000 people. However, the report found that most provinces are falling short of this standard. According to the report, Canada only has 3.97 hospice beds per 100,000 people as of May 31, 2022. Of regions surveyed, only British Columbia and Yukon exceed the 7 beds per 100,000 people threshold.
To inform the report, CCS surveyed 12 jurisdictions, including 9 provinces, 3 territories, 4 departments of the federal government and 13 community organizations. Quebec and Manitoba are the only 2 provinces that did not take part in the survey. CCS worked with the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association to update their database and count the number of hospice beds available in the country. Data captured in the report can help health experts better understand the current state of palliative care, identify areas of need and guide the delivery of critical support programs now and into the future.
“It's disheartening to know that many people across Canada are facing such limited and unequal access to the quality palliative care they need and deserve,” says Andrea Seale, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society. “Everyone with a life-limiting illness deserves comfort, dignity and choice, and that’s exactly what palliative care offers.”
The goal of palliative care is to control symptoms, minimize pain and provide a sense of comfort and control in any stage of a life-limiting illness. It goes beyond pain and symptom management and addresses the person as a whole, treating the psychological, interpersonal and spiritual effects that come with end-of-life care.
In addition to the inadequate number of hospice beds in nearly every province, the report uncovered several other gaps in palliative care consistently across jurisdictions, including:
- The pandemic clearly demonstrated the need for palliative care across more settings than in hospitals. Ongoing efforts to ensure access to programs and services in primary care, hospice, home care, long-term care, retirement homes and other community settings need to remain a priority.
- Health human resources are stretched, and the pandemic exacerbated pressures, including redeploying providers to manage COVID-19. There is an urgent need to address gaps in health human resources across the country.
- All jurisdictions noted that more could be done to improve culturally safe palliative care, including grief and bereavement.
To address these shortcomings, the report details actions needed to improve access to palliative care including an awareness campaign targeted to the public and healthcare providers, increased training for more healthcare providers to provide palliative care and improved use of performance measures and indicators to better understand what is working and areas in need of improvement.
“More needs be done to ensure that people are aware of the information and supports available to them, and to provide healthcare professionals the resources needed to deliver palliative and end-of-life care for people with life-limiting illnesses like cancer,” says Seale.
The Government of Canada has an obligation to report back to parliament on its Framework on Palliative Care in Canada by December of this year. CCS hopes this report will inform their work and provide a path forward towards better palliative care across Canada.
CCS’s Don Green Palliative Care Advocacy Team intends to use the findings of the report to better understand how to ensure any individual with a life-limiting or life-threatening illness can access high-quality palliative care early and throughout their disease trajectory, where they want and need it. Equally important is to ensure grief and bereavement supports are available for all who provide care up to and at the end of life. The findings of this report will inform the work of CCS to ensure that everyone in Canada has access to high-quality, culturally safer, affordable palliative care, regardless of where they live or in what setting they choose to receive care.
Individuals can support CCS’s calls for better palliative care by sending a letter to their elected official at cancer.ca/palliativecare.
About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society works tirelessly to save and improve lives. We fund the brightest minds in cancer research. We provide a compassionate support system for all those affected by cancer, across Canada and for all types of cancer. As the voice for people who care about cancer, we work with governments to shape a healthier society. No other organization does all that we do to make lives better today and transform the future of cancer forever. Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit cancer.ca today.
For more information, please contact:
Senior Manager, Communications
Canadian Cancer Society
(416) 219 7281