Party leaders weigh-in on palliative care this provincial election

06 September 2019

Winnipeg -

Days before Manitoba’s provincial election the Canadian Cancer Society and Palliative Manitoba join with local health stakeholders to remind party leaders and the voting public that forward-thinking healthcare must involve better palliative care. The group surveyed party leaders on their plans to improve palliative care services in Manitoba. All three major parties participated in the survey with comments and commitments for improved palliative care outcomes.

“We are pleased to see engagement from party leaders on our palliative care survey and hope Manitobans take the time to learn how each party plans to tackle the challenges ahead,” says Sarah Hawkins, Health Policy Analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society. “All Manitobans deserve access to affordable, high-quality palliative care, regardless of where they live and where they choose to receive care. With an aging and growing population, we have more citizens in need of these services every year.”

Manitobans are living longer today than they used to, even those with life-limiting illnesses thanks to advancements in modern medicine. As our population ages, Manitobans are becoming increasingly aware that the quality of those additional years is what truly matters and is too often ignored.

“If there are two things that are certain in life, election campaigns tend to be hyper focused on one and ignore the other entirely,” quips James Tam, Cardiologist. “A smart, forward-thinking healthcare platform should acknowledge that all people eventually die and deserve to do so with dignity, without pain, and in the setting of their choice. Quality, comprehensive palliative care is a critical aspect of care that needs to be better integrated into our healthcare system.”

Manitoba has a dismally low number of residential hospice beds in relation to our population. Most independent assessments suggest that provinces should have 8-10 residential hospice beds supported by at least two palliative care unit beds for every 100,000 residents. Manitoba’s ratio is currently 0.8 beds/100,000 residents. The 16 beds allocated for the population of the entire province are all located in Winnipeg. Health care professionals with expertise in palliative care is also lacking outside Winnipeg.

“Better advanced care planning and earlier integration of palliative care into the continuum of care in Manitoba would help avoid unnecessary and costly use of acute care resources” notes Jennifer Gurke, Executive Director of Palliative Manitoba. “At the same time, such measures would provide enhanced quality of life for Manitobans with care that is tailored to their wishes and goals.”

The group further agrees that improved palliative care outcomes will require an intentional focus on system-wide change to increase the overall number and training of heath care providers and services focused on palliative care, shifting care from hospitals into the community and into rural settings.

About the Survey
The party leaders survey on palliative care was conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society and Palliative Manitoba in collaboration with the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, Jocelyn House Hospice, and local health advocates. It included five questions related to awareness, funding, training and policy development. A summary of the responses is available here.

About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

About Palliative Manitoba
Palliative Manitoba is a registered charity that helps ease the suffering of the dying, the bereaved and caregivers through supportive services and education. Palliative Manitoba also aims to enhance the profile and understanding of palliative care in the province. If you would like to learn more, please visit our website www.palliativemanitoba.ca or call our toll-free number at 1-800-539-0295.

For more information, please contact:
Sarah Hawkins
Health Policy Analyst
Canadian Cancer Society
204-975-9218

Jennifer Gurke
Executive Director
Palliative Manitoba
204-889-8525 ext. 222