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 and NDP Ethics Critic Charlie Angus introduced a private member's motion to establish a national palliative care strategy.
"Our motion is about the need for palliative care," said Angus in an interview. "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 parliamentary committee when it held hearings in 2010.
"We are happy to see this put forward," said COLF executive director Michele Boulva.
"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 (CHPCA) 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.
"Currently, only 16 to 30 per cent of Canadians have access to high quality hospice palliative care," said Walker. "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."
When introducing her bill in the House of Commons, Davies said palliative care and continuing care are critical issues.
"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."
The bill "would establish pan-Canadian standards for best practices in continuing care, caregiver support, training, infrastructure and affordability," Davies said.
"It would ensure that the federal government plays a key role in the collaborative 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."