Make palliative care an election issue

03 February 2016

Regina -

For immediate release

February 3, 2016


Make palliative care an election issue

On World Cancer Day, Canadian Cancer Society urges voters to speak out


Regina –Today, the Canadian Cancer Society is launching an on-line campaign urging Saskatchewan residents to help make palliative care an issue in the upcoming provincial election. The Society also sent all political parties a questionnaire to determine their positions and will post the responses on the Society’s website.

February 4 is World Cancer Day – a global initiative where the world unites in the fight against cancer, bringing awareness of efforts to reduce the burden of cancer.

“We hear stories all the time about problems accessing good palliative care in this province,” says Donna Ziegler, Director of Cancer Control for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan. “What stands out most is that receiving good palliative care seems to depend on where you live. While some people in end-of-life care have access to music therapy, spiritual care, trained palliative staff and social workers, others have no services.” The Society is urging voters to help make quality palliative care an election issue by sharing their concerns with candidates and voting accordingly.

The renewed focus on palliative care is the result of a troubling Society report that found critically ill Canadians are not getting the palliative care they need when they need it most. The report says the need for solutions is becoming more urgent with Canada facing a 40% increase in the number of new cancer cases in the next 15 years. The debate on physician-assisted dying and the upcoming federal legislation have also cast a brighter light on the serious gaps in palliative care. “When making healthcare decisions, critically ill people need to feel confident that quality palliative care will be available when they need it, where they need it, adds Ziegler.

Palliative care can greatly improve quality of life by controlling pain and symptoms and by providing psychological and spiritual support in comfortable surroundings, whether at home, in a hospital or any other setting of the patients’ choice. It also has the potential to reduce healthcare costs by keeping people out of hospital emergency rooms.

Two years ago, Glynnis Eberts watched her husband die a painful death from cancer. As a retired nurse, she tried desperately to get her husband relief for his pain and anxiety, but says his doctor refused to follow the guidelines prescribed by the palliative physician. “It wasn’t working and he needed the medications adjusted. His doctor refused and would not call the palliative physician for advice,” says Eberts. “My husband continued to suffer needlessly for 3 more days calling out ‘help me, help me, help me’. It was heartbreaking.”

Ebert’s story is not uncommon. The Society says there needs to be a greater awareness and understanding of what palliative care can provide the patient and family. Healthcare providers need more training and support to integrate their skills into the system. It says there should also be increased job protection for family caregivers who require time away from work.

The Society is also calling on political parties to put more emphasis on cancer prevention, particularly reducing tobacco use which is responsible for a shocking 30% of cancer deaths. The organization says failure to address Saskatchewan’s high smoking rates now will eventually overwhelm our healthcare system. “During the length of the election campaign, 460 Saskatchewan residents will be diagnosed with cancer and 200 will die from it. Political parties must make the fight against cancer a priority,” says Ziegler.

For more information on our positions visit www.cancer.ca.


Media contacts:

Donna Pasiechnik
Manager, Media & Government Relations

306-790-9871 (w) 306-533-5288 (c)


The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit cancer.ca today.