With $6 billion earmarked for home and palliative care, the 2017 federal budget has put Canada on track towards providing quality end-of-life care. Photo courtesy of Tony Webster, Wikimedia Commons

New federal budget puts Canada on track for palliative care framework

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  • March 29, 2017

OTTAWA – With $6 billion earmarked for home and palliative care in the 2017 federal budget, Canada is on track towards making quality end-of-life care more accessible.

“This is really good news,” said Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, whose private member’s Bill C-277 calling for a national palliative care framework has passed the House of Commons Health Committee. It will come up for vote on third reading in April.

Gladu said this is the first time the Liberal government has mentioned palliative care in the budget.

“Everyone is really excited and on board,” she said. “There’s money in the budget and the health minister is moving in a supportive direction. It’s all good news.”

“The demand for home care services is growing,” read the Budget 2017 document, which was released March 22. “Today, approximately 15 per cent of hospital beds are still occupied by patients who could and would prefer to receive their care at home, or would be better off in a community-based setting.”

The $6 billion, spread over the next 10 years, is designed to improve “access to home, community and palliative care services,” the document said. Gladu noted the money will start flowing immediately.

The Quality End-of-Life Care Coalition of Canada has already proposed a framework called The Way Forward that was done with federal funding two years ago, Gladu said. The Quality Coalition includes 39 organizations such as the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society.

“It’s a well-written document and the committee heard evidence on it,” she said. “They don’t have to start from scratch.”

Sharon Baxter, executive director of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, said they were expecting the $6 billion announcement, but it remains to be seen where this money is going to be spent.

The association will be pushing all levels of government to fund “new initiatives over and above what’s already existing.”

The “health care system funds specialist care and palliative care provided in hospital settings,” Baxter said. Other settings, such as long-term care homes, or their own beds are “not part of the Canada Health Act.”

Aside from palliative care, the federal budget received tepid reviews from a couple of think tanks dedicated to Christian social teaching.

“With Budget 2017, Finance Minister Bill Morneau has made tentative financial commitments to key priorities identified in their consultations on housing and climate change, though not on international development,” said Citizens for Public Justice’s executive director Joe Gunn. “However, the government’s spending priorities fail to understand the depth of the problems of poverty in Canada, climate change and the concerns of refugees and newcomers — leaving them for our children to resolve.”

Among the budget initiatives is $7 billion for new childcare spaces over 10 years beginning in 2018-19. While the money is welcome support, the daycare subsidy is not consistent with research into what parents say they want or need, said Cardus.

“When subsidies go to child care spaces or centres, rather than directly to parents, these act as a form of soft coercion,” said Andrea Mrozek, program director for Cardus Family. “Rather than expanding options that increase the good for particular families, the government paints families into a corner by favouring one particular option.”

Mrozek pointed to a February report by the Advisory Council on Economic Growth, which identified groups that need to be targeted for greater labour force participation, including indigenous peoples and mothers of young children.

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