PC MLA rails at lack of action on palliative care

HALIFAX: The Premier answered questions from a Strait area MLA over the issue of palliative care.

On September 26 in the Nova Scotia Legislature, Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon asked Premier Stephen McNeil about the “unacceptable” level of palliative care offered in her riding.

“People are passing their last days and weeks in hallways in this province,” Paon said during Question Period. “They are dying in emergency rooms which are ill-equipped to accommodate their needs and they are even passing their last days and weeks in storage closets. It is absolutely deplorable.”

The Progressive Conservative MLA noted that on April 17, the Premier said the situation was “unacceptable” but in the five months since, the only response received from the Minister of Health and Wellness is a letter dated August 29 advising the Strait Richmond Palliative Care Society to contact the Nova Scotia Health Authority with their concerns.

The Premier responded that, on occasion, the two palliative care beds at the Strait-Richmond Hospital are occupied by acute care patients but there are three General Practitioners and a Nurse Practitioner who visit patients in their residences and they can help alleviate the strain.

“I believe that is a serious issue that we need to try to deal with, to address,” the Premier said in response. “I know this facility well. My family is from this particular riding. I’ve lost many of my own family in that facility, doing palliative care. This is an ongoing service we’re continuing to make sure is available in communities across the province, and Strait-Richmond is one of those.”

Pointing to the members of the Strait Richmond Palliative Care Society and palliative care families who visited the legislature, Paon pressed the Premier to create dedicated palliative care beds at the Richmond County health care facility.

“Can the Premier please inform me what he plans to deliver, and when he’ll deliver on that promise?” Paon asked. “I would hope he is a man of his word.”

The Speaker interjected by reminding the Cape Breton-Richmond MLA that questioning the integrity of another member of the house is “unparliamentary and against the Rules of this House.”

The Premier responded that Paon’s plan to provide a dedicated palliative care space was delivered to the Department of Health of Wellness and his government will continue to work with the Strait-Richmond Hospital.

The Premier added that palliative care also includes in-home or residential care.

“At the same time, we are also hearing from many Nova Scotians who want to receive palliative care services at home,” the Premier told the house. “We’re working to ensure that we have those health care teams to be able to provide that service. All families, as we go through an end-of-life process with one of the people we care about and love – there are many challenges associated with that, and the system should be flexible and responsive enough to ensure that we have the appropriate kinds of services that meet the needs of that end-of-life for that particular family.”