Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 20, 2005
Carstairs wants more palliative care
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The Catholic Health Association of Canada (CHAC) is urging the federal government to develop a long-term strategy to implement Senator Sharon Carstairs' recommendations in her progress report on palliative and end-of-life care.
"If we look ahead, the dramatic increase in terms of the numbers of annual deaths, the need for access to palliative is going to be increasing dramatically," said CHAC Director of Advocacy and Public Policy James Roche in an interview.
Carstairs' report, tabled in the Senate June 2, warns that 20 per cent of Canadians - about eight million people - will be over age 65 by 2026.
"Seniors account for 75 per cent of deaths each year," the report states. "It is estimated that there will be 40 per cent more deaths every year by 2020."
"Care at end-of-life is an essential component of well being and of life," Roche said. "It's not just the medical or technical aspects of care that is significant."
Roche points out Catholic health care has given special attention to end-of-life care.
According to Carstairs' report, only 15 per cent of Canadians have access to hospice or palliative care.
Roche said that if the percentage is low now, it's going to be even lower given the demographics unless there is a concerted effort to make hospice and palliative care more available.
In light of the June 9 Supreme Court decision that struck down a Quebec law banning private medical insurance for services provided by the public health care system, Carstairs believes the recommendations in her report entitled Still Not There are all the more timely.
In an interview, Carstairs said a palliative care strategy is one way to help prevent a two-tier health care system.
She said Canada has people dying in far more costly acute care hospital beds when they should be dying in palliative care facilities or at home.
Carstairs said those who live in major cities probably have some access to good end-of-life care, but those living in rural communities, small cities or Northern Canada, "it's simply not there and that's not good enough."
Carstairs says she has seen significant improvements in the past five years, but there's a long way to go.
In 1995, a special Senate committee determined that Canadians wanted quality end-of-life care available to all Canadians instead of doctor-assisted suicide or euthanasia. Carstairs believes Canadians would come to the same conclusion if the debate were re-opened.
She wants to make sure, however, that Canadians have a real opportunity to choose palliative care if the debate is reopened.
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