Last week, the provincial government announced $ 11 million in hospice and end-of-life care grants in Alberta.
Dr. Konrad Fassbender, scientific director of the Covenant Health Palliative Institute, which operates 10 hospice beds at St. Michael’s Health Center in Lethbridge, said that palliative care is a relatively new advance in medicine.
“Over the past quarter century, many organizations and individuals have worked hard to understand palliative care and the needs of dying patients and families,” explained Fassbender.
Karen Fritz, director of integrated home care and senior health in Southern Alberta Health Services, said they will have the opportunity to request specific uses for the money.
The deadline to complete a grant application is January 7, 2022.
COVID-19: Palliative care doctor warns of ‘looming human catastrophe’
“Our teams can come up with a type of proposal that can better help meet the needs of the people in our community,” he explained.
“There are many areas where we can continue to improve, if we consider those funds,” said Dr. Dionne Walsh, a Lethbridge physician who specializes in palliative care.
According to Walsh, the $ 9 million previously allocated of the $ 20 million announced in September 2020 went to several key areas.
“One of the big (changes) in our community has been that the copay for medications and the cost of syringes are covered,” he said.
“When people can no longer swallow, we need to use injectable medications to make sure they feel comfortable. And sometimes in the past, if they couldn’t afford that, they had to leave the house. “
Alberta Government Announces $ 11 Million in Grants to Improve End-of-Life and Palliative Care
With the remainder of the funding, areas of focus include community supports and services, research and innovation, education and training, and earlier access.
“Most Albertans are referred for hospice care in the last six weeks of life, which is too late,” explained Fassbender.
“Research shows that an early introduction to palliative care and having those conversations with your healthcare providers greatly improves quality of life.”
When it comes to education, Walsh said that both the public and other health professionals could benefit from increasing their knowledge.
“I would like to see a time when all people knew about palliative care and were not afraid of it,” Walsh said.
“Our population is aging and we want to bring this approach to everyone, and our five doctors and six nurses can’t reach everyone, so we really want to allow other groups to provide this care as well.”
Palliative Care Supports Growing in Southern Alberta
Walsh added that there are differences between end-of-life care and palliative care. The latter is intended to be a comprehensive approach that improves quality of life.
“Only one in two Albertans is familiar with the term hospice,” added Fassbender. “Not knowing, for half of Albertans, that there is such a service or what the service entails is a significant gap.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, while restrictive, resulted in the improvement of virtual care for hospice patients within Walsh’s jurisdiction.
When it comes to the future of palliative care, Fritz believes that provision will continue to focus on the needs of the individual.
“When we talk to patients and hear from them, they want a lot of support in their family environment, so I see that the direction continues to flow that way.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.