Most critically ill Canadians are not receiving adequate end-of-life care, according to a recent report by the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Saskatchewan chapter of the organization is launching a campaign asking that more be done help people dying of chronic disease.
The report says there's a lack of standards, training and funding to properly provide palliative care. The group says not even half of the people who die of chronic illness are able to access treatment, meant to help them die comfortably.
"Every resident in Saskatchewan should be guaranteed access to palliative care, should have quality palliative care delivered in a setting of their choice, in a timely, when they need it. Not the last few days before they die, which is happening now," said Donna Ziegler, with the Cancer Society.
Calling on the government
In Saskatchewan, there are three full-time palliative care doctors — two in Saskatoon and one in Regina. The Cancer Society said this leaves family doctors stretched to deliver end-of-life treatment that could ideally be provided by the specialists, and it's calling on the government to change the situation.
"A lot of people will suffer from a number of diseases, but everybody dies and they'll all want good care at the end of their life and they'll all want to be able to die with dignity and free of symptoms," said Lawrence Klein, a retired palliative care doctor.
Klein argues there should be at least three full-time palliative care doctors in both Regina and Saskatoon. The Cancer Society wants governments to set a standard, for how many palliative care providers are needed, based on population.
Province open to recommendations
The Ministry of Health admits there's a lack of resources and is willing to work with the recommendations.
"There's always more that can be done, for all services, including palliative care. And certainly we're interested and considering innovative ways of moving forward," said Linda Restau, director of the health ministry.
The Cancer Society's Saskatchewan branch wants palliative care to be an election issue. It's sent a questionnaire to the political parties, and said the responses will be posted on the society's website.