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CMA call for palliative care strategy gets federal backing

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and a Parliamentary All-Party Committee have joined forces to advocate for the development of a national strategy on palliative care.

The Parliamentary All-Party Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care held a joint news conference to announce its support for the CMA and the association’s current initiative to encourage a national dialogue on end-of-life care issues. The news conference also provided an opportunity for the CMA to voice its support for the all-party committee’s work.

At the news conference, CMA President-elect Dr. Chris Simpson noted that as few as 16% of Canadians will have access to any palliative care services this year.

“How comfortable and peaceful a death we have should not depend on our postal code,” he said.

“The Canadian Medical Association calls on governments, federal and provincial, and Canadians everywhere to join these farsighted parliamentarians in thinking with compassion and practicality.”

The committee on palliative and compassionate care is an ad-hoc caucus of MPs from all parties founded four years ago and dedicated to promoting awareness of, and fostering research and constructive dialogue on palliative and compassionate care in Canada. It has the support of 55 Members of Parliament and two years ago issued a comprehensive report ‘Not to be Forgotten: Care of Vulnerable Canadians’ which dealt with end-of-life care, elderly abuse and suicide prevention.

The news conference by the committee comes as the CMA is in the midst of a cross-country series of town hall meetings to allow Canadians and their physicians to become more informed about end-of-life care issues and to voice their opinions.

Parliamentary Committee co-chair, Joe Comartin, MP for Windsor-Tecumseh, applauded the CMA for the town hall meetings stating: “It’s that type of productive community engagement that we need in order to create a palliative framework that will speak and connect with all Canadians.”

“I am glad the Canadian Medical Association will cross the country this year to keep the discussion going, ” Frank Valeriote, MP for Guelph and another co-chair of the committee, told the House of Commons later that day.

Three town hall meetings have been held to date, with future meetings scheduled for this month in Regina (May 7) and Mississauga (May 27). Simpson noted the meetings have all been “well attended and highly engaging.”

Simpson called for more upfront investment in long-term care to allow more appropriate use of acute care hospital beds and better meet the needs of patients. “Many Canadians die in hospital beds when they could peacefully pass with loved ones at hospices or home.”

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