Improving access to palliative care

To live well with cancer, individuals and families need support for the physical and emotional symptoms that can make the cancer experience so difficult. High-quality palliative care provides this support, and introducing it early can help people live more fully and comfortably throughout their cancer journey.

What’s the problem that we are trying to solve?

For people receiving end-of-life palliative care, most would prefer to remain at home with appropriate support. However, families often have to call 911 when urgent problems arise. In the past, that meant a trip to the emergency department.

What the Strategy is doing about this issue?

Paramedics are now being trained to deliver palliative care at home across the country. First implemented in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the model is now being rolled out in seven more jurisdictions with joint support from the Partnership and Healthcare Excellence Canada. Paramedics in five provinces are already trained and delivering palliative care (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador) and two regions in Ontario began training in the past year. The initiative has also expanded in response to the pandemic, as health-care systems try to keep patients out of hospital whenever possible.

How is this work helping those affected by cancer?

Patients are already benefitting from this work. Paramedics are taking up to 80 per cent fewer palliative care patients to the hospital, and patients and families are very satisfied with the care they are receiving. On average, paramedics are also spending 30 minutes less on each call when they treat patients at home.