Nova Scotia

MLA calls for dedicated palliative care space on South Shore

Queens-Shelburne MLA Kim Masland says there is a lack of palliative care options in Queens and Lunenburg counties.

Health Minister Zach Churchill says he's looking to expand services to areas without them

Everyone deserves to die with dignity, says MLA Kim Masland. (Shaun Best/Reuters)

A Nova Scotia MLA is calling for better access to services that allow people to die with dignity, regardless of where they live.

Kim Masland, the Tory member for Queens-Shelburne, raised the issue during question period Thursday, noting there is no dedicated palliative care space at any of the three hospitals between Queens and Lunenburg counties.

"Sadly, when people are reaching that point of end of life and their loved one is at home and they cannot control their pain management or whatever it may be, they're having to take them to the local hospitals," Masland said in an interview.

No one wants to see a loved one die in an emergency department bed, but in some cases that's what is happening because there aren't alternative options close to home, she said.

"Everyone deserves to die with dignity in a place that's comfortable, that their family can be with them, so that they're there together."

An inpatient bed can be made available for a palliative care patient at the three sites but it depends on availability. Currently, no beds in those hospitals are dedicated to only palliative care patients.

Department wants to expand services

Health Minister Zach Churchill said Thursday that he and department officials are working on it.

Churchill said his department is looking to expand palliative services to parts of Nova Scotia that right now don't have them.

While Masland asked Thursday about a hospice or stand-alone palliative care site, the minister said there needs to be a population of about 100,000 in an area for that to work.

Instead, Churchill said he's looking at dedicated beds within existing hospital sites.

"We do have palliative care, I know, in Yarmouth and in Shelburne, but we are looking at potential expansion of those services in the South Shore," he said in an interview. "That would, I think, be an area where there is a need."