Retiring doctor takes issue with state of palliative care

PORT HAWKESBURY: A retiring doctor is not pleased with the state of palliative car in the area.

Dr. Bob Martel started out serving local patients 35 years ago before leaving after 15 years. He returned to Richmond County about four years ago and has worked to improve palliative care in the area.

Dr. Martel, who is retiring in February, said he originally hoped to establish a palliative care team which he would transition to another physician but it never came to be.

“The [Nova Scotia] Health Authority was not in support of that,” he said. “The community health board, which is chaired by Dr. Dorothy Barnard, has had a submission before the Nova Scotia Health Authority for three years so I don’t want to speak for them but they have been leading the initiative to establish a comprehensive palliative care team here and that request has fallen on deaf ears.”

Dr. Martel said if people are happy with what they have, the status-quo will likely remain. However, Dr. Martel feels residents are not getting the care they should be and it is difficult to support someone dying at home without a palliative care team in place.

“The health authority will tell you they have a team but that team is nowhere near what it should be,” he said. “In the last three years [the health authority] have spoken to me directly.”

Dr. Martel said the current setup includes a full-time palliative care coordinator nurse and a part-time individual who helps out. The only other resource dedicated to palliative care, said Dr. Martell, is a physician who travels from Antigonish every two weeks and spends time with patients on recommendations from the nurse.

“As you can imagine, those are huge gaps in care so if you want to die at home… your default position is to call EHS or to have your loved one taken to the emergency room,” he said. “What we wanted to set up is a team where you would have dedicated resources 24/7, which is available in other areas but it’s not available here.

“We’re not talking about a lot of money here,” Dr. Martel added. “We’re just talking about coordinating resources so they function as a team, as a group. Right now, they’re scattered everywhere.”