Health minister defends actions on palliative care

HALIFAX: The minister of health was questioned for not making improvements to the palliative care system.

On September 19 during Question Period in the Nova Scotia Legislature, Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon asked Minister of Health and Wellness, Randy Delorey, why he canceled a meeting with a local palliative care group.

“Rather than meeting with the Strait Richmond Palliative Care Society, the minister, on the eve of this sitting, instead sent them a letter directing them to contact the staff at the [Nova Scotia Health Authority],” Paon told the legislature. “Would the minister please explain why, after five months, the best he could do for the Strait Richmond Palliative Care Society was to advise them to call the health authority?”

Paon recalled the stories of Danny Latimer and Liz Cole, whose families had difficulty accessing palliative care services.

“The Latimers and Coles heard the premier loudly and clearly when he said that what happened to them was completely unacceptable,” she noted. “The premier committed to ensuring that the appropriate meetings would happen with Strait Richmond Palliative Care, and he personally accepted the plan needed to meet the needs of the palliative care patients in the constituency.”

Delorey responded that meeting with the NSHA is the best course of action to improve palliative care services.

“… The Nova Scotia Health Authority is responsible for front-line operations and delivery of health care services throughout the province,” Delorey said. “… The most efficient and appropriate course of action for the individual group to discuss both the current level of service and opportunities for changes or desired changes would be directly to the Nova Scotia Health Authority because that would be step one. The health authority would assess that in the context of their overall review of palliative services.”

In her supplemental question, Paon recalled how the Cole family spoke of the difference in care their mother received, compared to the experiences of their father.

“They previously did not have to fight for a bed to care for their dying father, as they did their mother,” the Progressive Conservative MLA noted. “They did not have to endure the pain of seeing their father not have the same access to services as their mother.”

While reminding the minister he is ultimately responsible for the NSHA, Paon pointed out that the Integrated Palliative Care Strategy, which was released in 2014, included 37 recommendations.

“Would the minister please detail how many of those 37 recommendations have been accepted and implemented?” Paon asked.

Delorey, who is also the Liberal MLA for Antigonish, said the NSHA has been working to improve palliative care services around Nova Scotia. For example, the minister noted that a hospice framework has been development, there are at-home palliative options and the province is partnering with EHS to provide more supports.

“We have a number of initiatives within this province, which include a combination of services within hospitals,” Delorey told the legislature. “We’re working with front-line health care providers working within their scopes of practice to provide the supports that families need in providing end-of-life care.”