Marilyn Gladu says the pioneering palliative care options available to local residents were the inspiration for her successful bill.
“It’s a model that’s been very well accepted,” the MP for Sarnia-Lambton said. “This is the model that we’d like to see in all communities,”
Bill C-277, the Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Act, cleared the Senate and received Royal Assent on Dec. 12, a rare accomplishment for a private members’ bill.
It requires Canada’s health minister to develop and implement a framework to give all citizens access to palliative care through hospitals, home care, long-term care facilities and residential hospices.
It will also dictate training for doctors, nurses and home-care workers, and list services covered from pain control to emotional and spiritual counselling.
“It’s the beginning of the journey to fill the gaps that exist, that are so large today,” Gladu said.
Local residents approaching the end of their life have the option of receiving palliative care and pain control in a dedicated wing at Bluewater Health, at home, or at St. Joseph’s Hospice.
“And they work together,” Gladu said. “That’s not the way it happens in other places.”
Her bill, which received all-party support, requires the federal health minister to convene a conference within six months of the act coming into force, when provincial and territorial governments and palliative care providers will develop a national framework.
Gladu said 70% of Canadians can’t access palliative care. The country has only about 100 hospices and 200 palliative care doctors, and at least five of them are in Sarnia.
According to Gladu, $9 billion was pledged for home care and palliative care in 2016, but only $200,000 has been spent.
In-hospital care costs $1,200 a day, while hospice and at-home care average $150 to $250 a day, she said.
Gladu, a Conservative, tabled her bill after the Liberal government approved physician-assisted dying for the terminally ill in 2016.
“I found out that where there’s good quality palliative care, 95% of people choose to live as well as they can for as long as they can,” she said.
“That’s a better outcome for people. To be comfortable, to die with dignity, is a good thing.”