My daughter and I recently enjoyed one of our favourite activities of creating a basket of decorative eggs to welcome spring. Together, we chose the colours and patterns that are appealing because they perk us up after winter and symbolize a refresh of our outlook toward new beginnings and fresh starts. As we celebrate spring’s arrival, I’m reminded of how fortunate we are to live in a country that gives us hope about the power of new beginnings and what they can bring to our lives.
I’m also reminded that while life’s beginnings bring great satisfaction and meaning, so too should life’s endings.
John Fraser, the Parliamentary Assistant responsible for the recently released Palliative and End-of-Life Care Provincial Roundtable Report wrote in his introduction that, “I have long been guided by the firm belief that how we care for each other at the end-of-life is as important as at the beginning of our lives.”
As a key step towards this goal, the Ontario government announced this March a $75 million investment over three years to strengthen end-of-life care. The investment includes more training and support each year for new hospice volunteers and the launch of a new Ontario Palliative Care Network (OPCN), accountable to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The LHINs and Cancer Care Ontario will have an important leadership role within the OPCN, along with Health Quality Ontario, the Quality Hospice Palliative Care Coalition of Ontario and other stakeholders, including patients and families.
The OPCN will advise the government on how to achieve high-quality, high-value palliative care and will also support the regional implementation of palliative care.
Better Palliative Care
What do these new beginnings mean for people who live within Central LHIN? How will they help us to advance the goal of Better Palliative Care that is part of our 2016-2019 Integrated Health Service Plan?
These palliative care investments provide the structures and direction to better care for patients and caregivers during the most challenging and difficult times of life. There will be 14 new Regional Palliative Care Programs – one in each LHIN. They will work with local partners such as home care agencies, primary care, hospice and other organizations to create general awareness of palliative care and to improve access to care in the community. Many expert stakeholders, including patients and families, will come together to advance a standardized and coordinated approach to palliative care across the province. The OPCN is now gathering information to support the formation of these programs and we will share more information with you when it’s available.
Groundbreaking palliative care initiatives in our LHIN
Here in Central LHIN, we are fortunate to have expert stakeholders who are passionate about improving palliative care. Two years ago, the Regional Hospice Palliative Care Program Council developed a number of recommendations that were embedded into a Central LHIN Palliative Care Action Plan. Phase I of this plan has been implemented through the work of the Palliative Care Coordinating Council. These initiatives are making a real difference, and will result in meaningful changes – for example, helping patients to choose where they wish to live during their end-of-life period.
In the past year the Central LHIN has brought our partners together to:
- Create a palliative care registry so that everyone who has a palliative diagnosis can receive services by calling one telephone number at the Central Community Care Access Centre
- Provide education to health care providers so they are better prepared to handle the complex needs of patients who are nearing end-of-life, and
- Implement a Palliative Care Telephone Crisis Line. The toll-free number gives patients and caregivers expert support from trained Registered Nurses and access to other providers who can help with end-of-life issues such as pain management, or troubles with medical equipment and supplies. Use of this service has reduced visits to the Emergency Department by palliative patients.
We’re also developing a model that will mobilize local care through regional palliative care teams, and a strategy to provide supports for people who wish to die with dignity and compassion in their long-term care home.
Central LHIN’s Vision is to create Caring Communities, Healthier People through priorities such as Better Palliative Care. Like John Fraser, I too believe that a truly caring community will be measured in the future not only by how we welcome our babies and nurture our children, but in the compassion and support we show to those who are aging and vulnerable during the last stages of life.
To all of our Health Service Providers, primary care physicians, patients, families and partners – thank you for working with us towards our goal of Better Palliative Care.
And to everyone in Central LHIN – a salute to spring and to new beginnings!