Nova Scotia

Cape Breton MLA calls for improved palliative care

Cape Breton Richmond MLA Alana Paon is calling on the government to expedite efforts to bring guaranteed palliative-care services to communities across the province.

Alana Paon says Strait Richmond Hospital staff need more resources

Cape Breton Richmond MLA Alana Paon is calling on the government to improve palliative care services for her area by guaranteeing beds for people in need. (CBC)

Cape Breton Richmond MLA Alana Paon is calling on the government to expedite efforts to bring guaranteed palliative-care services to communities across the province.

On Tuesday at Province House, Paon raised the story of Danny Latimer, a constituent with terminal cancer. The Cape Breton Post reported Latimer recently spent two days on a stretcher in the emergency department of the Strait Richmond Hospital because there wasn't available space for him and his wife, Linda, elsewhere.

Paon said the situation highlights a problem at the Strait Richmond Hospital specifically, but also raises questions about available resources in other communities.

Staff need help

There isn't a unit dedicated to palliative care at the hospital and no guaranteed beds, said Paon. Two rooms have been retrofitted by a palliative-care group to make some space available for families, but Paon said that isn't enough to meet the area's need.

The nearest palliative care, she said, is either at St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish or in Sydney.

Not only is it a disservice to patients who fall in between those areas, said Paon, it's also unfair to the staff at Strait Richmond who are working to provide services for people who need them.

"The staff already are almost experts, really, in that field, so why not provide them with the proper resources available so that they can actually do their jobs to the best of their abilities and provide the best services possible for the people of Cape Breton Richmond."

Premier supports province-wide plan

Premier Stephen McNeil said during question period on Tuesday that what happened to Latimer isn't acceptable. He later told reporters there needs to be a provincewide plan for palliative-care services, something he said should be easier to achieve with the provincial health authority.

"We do need to look at that to find a way of how do we work with our community partners," he said.

McNeil noted in many cases the local hospital foundation or auxiliary partners with government to help put the service in place. Palliative care can be part of a long, difficult process and the premier said it's important that there be "a uniformed approach across the province."

Health Minister Randy Delorey said the Nova Scotia Health Authority is looking at all services in an effort to ensure consistency in what's available, and that includes end-of-life care. A provincial hospice plan was also released about 18 months ago.

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca