Strategy to improve palliative care for Nova Scotians

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TRURO – The provincial government is releasing a new strategy to help provide Nova Scotians with more choices about how they are cared for as they approach the end of their lives.

The strategy, released by government today in Truro sets direction to improve palliative care in the province.

"We've heard from Nova Scotians who would prefer to spend their last days at home surrounded by family, if possible, rather than in a hospital," said Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine, in a news release.

"We are investing $1 million for the first year of this strategy to move toward a more integrated approach with health professionals and community organizations, and to focus more on patients' needs," said Glavine. "These are first steps toward our ultimate goal of giving all Nova Scotians quality palliative care in the setting of their choice."

Palliative care aims to provide quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses. It can take place in various settings, including the patient's home, long-term and residential care, hospital, or a residential hospice facility.

The strategy includes establishing an advisory committee to guide implementation. It also includes hiring a provincial palliative care co-ordinator and additional palliative care team members in South Shore, Annapolis Valley and Capital district health authorities this year.

The strategy recognizes that palliative care and planning need to start when a patient is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, and adjust as the patient moves through stages of the illness. Funding is going to the Nova Scotia Hospice Palliative Care Association to begin educating Nova Scotians and care providers on advance planning.

"Advance care planning is important because in order to respect the patient's and family's wishes for end-of-life care, we need to know what those wishes are," said Colleen Cash, executive director of the association, also in a news release.

"Addressing this will require education and support for health-care providers and the public, and our association is looking forward to working with the provincial government on this important component of the new provincial palliative care strategy," said Cash.

The strategy gives direction for more collaboration among health professionals and community support organizations. Dr. David Henderson is a palliative care physician at the Colchester East Hants Health Authority.

"The health care of a society is framed by the need to provide safe, caring, competent, and timely care both when we are born and when we are dying. Yet, we haven't focused as much on end-of-life care," said Dr. Henderson, in a news release.

"This strategy will guide professionals in different parts of the health system and increase our capacity to work more closely together, and with patients, families and community organizations to provide the right kind of care, at the right time, and in the right place," he said.

The strategy is available at novascotia.ca/dhw/palliativecare .

Organizations: Nova Scotia Hospice Palliative Care Association, Colchester East Hants Health Authority

Geographic location: Nova Scotians, Truro, South Shore Annapolis Valley

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