A unique program started eight months ago to help palliative care patients in P.E.I. receive care in their own homes evenings and weekends is being declared a big success.

The program, Paramedics Providing Palliative Care at Home, began last December and allows palliative care patients living at home to get care from paramedics, especially for pain and symptom management. Previously, a 911 call from a palliative care patient would typically lead to the patient being taken to a hospital.

'Making a difference'

"We are so pleased to see that this program is making a difference in the lives of in-home palliative patients and their families," said Dr. Mireille Lecours, Health PEI's provincial palliative care medical consultant in a written release Tuesday. 

'Being able to support our daughter's wish to stay in our home during her final days was an incredible gift that wouldn't have been possible without this program.' — Jane Callbeck

"It is important that we do what we can to support our patients' wishes. This includes helping them to remain in their home for as long as they want to," said Lecours.

The province said paramedics have responded to 76 calls from in-home palliative care patients at night, and 27 patients — or 35 per cent — have been able to remain in their home with support from paramedics, while 49 patients —  65 per cent — asked to be taken to the Provincial Palliative Care Centre in Charlottetown or the nearest hospital. 

The goal during the first year, said Health PEI, is for 25 per cent of patients to be able to stay in their home. 

 There are 354 palliative care patients registered with the program on P.E.I.. 

'So grateful'

"Our family is so grateful for this service and for the additional support that we received from Island EMS when our daughter was ill," Jane Callbeck, who recently lost her daughter to cancer, said in the release. 

"Being able to support our daughter's wish to stay in our home during her final days was an incredible gift that wouldn't have been possible without this program."

P.E.I. is the first province in Canada to offer in-home palliative care support by paramedics as a province-wide service. The program has received $1.3 million in funding from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and Health Canada, which it shares with Nova Scotia. 

"Knowing that care is available to them during overnight hours in their home is comforting to our patients and important to supporting the care being provided by the Integrated Palliative Care Program," said Lecours.