A new report released Tuesday from the Canadian Cancer Society says not enough people are able to access palliative care.

The national study points to gaps in the health care system, and not enough choices for Canadians.

That's being felt on P.E.I., where the society says it should be easier for people to get palliative care.

"There's a huge gap there and one we need to address to ensure quality of life," said Lori Barker, the executive director for the P.E.I. division of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Barker said many Canadians are dealing with terminal illnesses in hospital wards with no specialized end-of-life care.

Provincial Palliative Care Centre

The Palliative Care Centre opened in March of 2015 in Charlottetown. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

Health PEI says 70 per cent of Islanders dealing with a terminal illness want to die at home, but only 19 per cent end up doing that.

"The majority of cancer patients would prefer to spend their final days at home, and based on the data that we have we know that isn't the case," said Barker.

Palliative care improvements

Officials with Health PEI say they are working to improve palliative services.

"I do believe we have room for improvement in that individuals who are dying should have access to palliative care in the setting of their choice," said Deborah Bradley, Executive Director of Community Health, "and should be able to die where they want to die."

The province opened a new Palliative Care Centre in Charlottetown this past March, and paramedics have also been added into the palliative home care system to help provide some after-hours care.

But Hospice PEI says more palliative home care is still needed.


Deborah Bradley, Executive Director of Community Health for the province says people who are dying should have access to palliative care in the setting of their choice. (CBC)

"Not having government-funded 24-hour home care makes that challenging because it's left to the caregiver," said Alana Sprague, the group's executive director. "Or they need to be financially burdened by having to pay for home care services through the evening."

Sprague agrees too many people are ending up in hospital.

All these groups say raising awareness about palliative care will help, and that health care workers and patients need to be able to discuss dying.

"That's a very difficult conversation for patients to have, but also for medical professionals to have," said Barker.

While the province says it plans to improve the current system, the Canadian Cancer Society says they should plan for those to be big improvements.

They'll be needed over the next 15 years, as the population ages, and many more people will be in need of palliative care.