MP Charlie Angus

NDP MPs seek national palliative care initiative

  • November 7, 2013

OTTAWA - Two New Democratic Party MPs have launched initiatives to address the gaps in access to good palliative, long-term and home care to meet the needs of Canadians.

On Oct. 31, NDP Health Critic Libby Davies introduced a private member’s Bill C-545 An Act respecting the provision of continuing care to Canadians, while NDP Ethics Critic Charlie Angus introduced a Private Member’s Motion to establish a national palliative care strategy.

“Palliative care and continuing care are critical issues to Canadians,” Davies told the House of Commons when she introduced her bill. “There is a strong national consensus from academics, health professionals and the public that we are sadly lacking in the pan-Canadian plan for continuing care, including home care, long-term care, respite care and palliative care.”

Her bill “would establish pan-Canadian standards for best practices in continuing care, caregiver support, training, infrastructure and affordability,” she said. “It would ensure that the federal government plays a key role in the col l ab or at ive process with the provinces and the territories to meet the needs of Canadians who need home care, long-term care, or palliative care in a timely and accessible way.”

“Our motion is about the need for palliative care,” said Angus. “Very few Canadians are able to access palliative care. This puts enormous stress on families at a vulnerable time.”

Angus said the motion is a way “to move the conversation forward.”

The motion is based on the recommendation for a national strategy from the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, Angus said.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) had recommended a national palliative care strategy before the committee when it held hearings in 2010. The committee released its recommendations in 2011.

“We are happy to see this put forward,” said COLF executive director Michele Boulva.

Yet the debate in Quebec over euthanasia Bill-52, which includes a right to palliative care, raises concerns, Boulva said.

“I hope that their definition of palliative care does not include ‘medical aid in dying,’ a euphemism for euthanasia that is used in Bill-52,” she said, noting that euthanasia is “totally opposed to the philosophy and practice of palliative care.”

“I think what we’ve seen in the media is an enormous amount of attention on the hot button issue of the Quebec legislation,” said Angus.

“No one’s talking about the huge gaps that exist across the country.”

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association has thrown its support behind the bill.

“We are really proud to support this motion as we believe access to quality hospice palliative care is a critical issue for all Canadians,” said association president Sarah Walker at an Oct. 31 news conference. “As mentioned, our population is aging and if we don’t act now our health care system will face a crisis.

“Currently only 16 to 30 per cent of Canadians have access to high quality hospice palliative care. This motion is another step towards ensuring that we start the conversation about hospice palliative care and Canadians are able to both live and die well.”

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