Hospice care needed, says head of Doctors Nova Scotia

The president of Doctors Nova Scotia says he's convinced Nova Scotia needs better services for people at the end of life.

David Milne says families need space to collect thoughts on dying

Hospice Halifax has proposed a 10-bed hospice on Francklyn Street. (Hospice Halifax)

The president of Doctors Nova Scotia says he's convinced Nova Scotia needs better services for people at the end of life. 

This comes as the Department of Health and Wellness works on a framework for hospices in Nova Scotia, as it currently doesn't have residential hospices. 

Dr. David Milne's mother passed away at the Halifax Infirmary this year of lung cancer. He says that was a very different experience than his sister's death in a hospice in Ontario. 

"I think every effort was made to accommodate the end of life and dying process for my mom," Milne told Information Morning. "The hospitals are busy though, they've got multiple priorities, people and patients come and go. It's just a very busy, dynamic thing."

In contrast, Milne's sister, who also had lung cancer, died in a house where care was delivered by trained nurses, but there was also space for families to gather in kitchens, living rooms, and gardens. 

"They can actually collect their thoughts and talk about life, and death," he said.  

Hospice plans

Community organizations around the province are hoping to begin construction of a residential hospice soon. 

The Valley Hospice Foundation said last week it has started discussions with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, after raising $4 million for an eight to 10 bed hospice. 

Last fall, Hospice Halifax unveiled plans for a 10-bed residential care hospice on Francklyn Street in the south end of Halifax. The group said in November it wanted the facility to open in 2017. 

Milne said the Department of Health is looking at hospice care but he feels a large push for hospices will have to come from the community. 

"We've got to think differently about how we're delivering care at the end of life," he said. "End of life care in a hospital is expensive and not necessarily well done. If there are viable options in the community then we've really, really got to stress how important that is."

Milne says he thinks hospice beds would save money because patients could be moved out of acute care beds. 

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