Patients put on waiting list for “end of life” care in Kawartha Lakes


KAWARTHA LAKES-Some patients in need of end of life, Palliative Care in Kawartha Lakes can wait several weeks before a bed becomes available, Kawartha 411 has learned.

Maureen Charlebois, Ross Memorial Hospital (RMH)Vice President Quality, Transformation, Informatics and Post-Acute Care says “Our Patient Population demand for inpatient Palliative Care is often greater than the beds we are funded for.” The hospital confirmed wait times can fluctuate from days to several weeks depending on occupancy.

The Palliative Care program and RMH includes a six bed inpatient acute care unit and a satellite Radiation Oncology Clinic.  “In partnership with the City Of Kawartha Lakes Hospice Services: Palliative Care Community Team, we advance the direct admission to this unit and work together to facilitate transitions home. Patients are most often admitted for acute pain and symptom management or end of life care.” Charlebois explained.  The average length of stay in the Palliative Unit is two weeks with several complex patients requiring longer care management.

With the average length of stay being “two weeks” and some patients waiting “several weeks” for a bed that means some will never get the Palliative Care they need.

This isn’t just a local problem,there are anecdotal reports of patients waiting for palliative beds in other jurisdictions including at Peterborough Regional Health Centre, however officials there say that’s not the case. “Our palliative care unit in fact does not have a wait list to speak of. Patients normally receive a bed on this unit the same or next day.”

The Economist’s Intelligence Unit ranks Canada as eleventh in an international ‘Quality of Death’ index released in 2015. Sponsored by Singapore-based The Lien Foundation, the ‘Quality of Death’ index measures current hospice and palliative care environments across 80 countries in terms of the quality and availability of end of life care. According to the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association more than 269,000 Canadians died in 2016. Projections also show Canada will have far more very elderly people. In 2016, there were roughly 1.5 million people aged 80 or over. It is projected to increase to 3.3 million by 2036.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care says in 2016 they committed to invest an additional $75 million over three years to strengthen palliative and end-of-life care including to support the expansion of palliative care capacity in the community with up to 20 new hospices. “In the Central East Local Health Integration Network, the ministry has announced its commitment to support new residential hospices in Peterborough (10 beds), West Northumberland (three beds), Port Perry (five beds), Clarington (five beds), and Durham West / Whitby (10 beds).” David Jensen,Communications Director with the Ministry told Kawartha 411. These new residential hospices have not been built yet. Jensen says the ministry already supports three residential hospice beds in Northumberland County at The Bridge Hospice.

The City of Kawartha Lakes has a population of just over 75,000 people, currently with just 6 Palliative Care beds. When asked specifically about capacity in Kawartha Lakes Jensen pointed to an announcement in October providing RMH with up to $548,000 in one-time funding to support eight additional beds and Peterborough Regional Health will receive up to $1,370,000 in one-time funding to support 20 additional beds between mid-November and March 31, 2018. “The Central East LHIN will also receive up to $1,694,000 in additional one-time funding to support up to 28 additional beds (as needed) in the region between December 2017 and March 2018. Capacity will also be added through various health care facilities in the Central East LHIN to alleviate capacity pressures in hospitals.” Jensen said.  None of these additional beds were specifically earmarked for Palliative Care.

However the hospital says this money is not to be used for Palliative Care it is to be used for surge beds. “It refers to the patients coming into the Hospital through the Emergency Department who are admitted and require an inpatient bed. Surge beds make it possible to admit these patients faster so they don’t spend days in the Emergency Department waiting for the next bed to open up. The beds only become available when patients are discharged back into the community. Surge beds address patient flow problems.” Kim Coulter, RMH Communications Coordinator explained.

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association says from 2001 to 2006, the federal government funded the Secretariat on Palliative End-of-Life Care (HealthCanada) with an annual budget between $1 million and $1.5 million dollars. In 2007 the federal government disbanded the End-of-Life Care Secretariat and stopped work on the national palliative and end- of-life care strategy.

Community Care Kawartha Lakes Hospice Services aims to fill gaps in the health care system for individuals in the community who need Palliative Care. The Palliative Care Community Team launched in 2015 and helps support clients and families by helping them navigate and access the system,providing individual counselling and referrals including home and caregiver support, respite, volunteer companion support, and grief and bereavement support. The ministry provides ongoing operational funding for nursing, personal support, and other services delivered to patients in residential hospices.

In addition, the ministry announced a new Hospice Capital Program in July 2017. “This new initiative provides a contribution of up to $200,000 in capital funding to eligible organizations developing physical spaces associated with the provincial hospice expansion plan.” Jensen said.  It’s unclear exactly what classifies and a physical space and where the money will go.

A study done by the Quality of End-of-Life Care Coalition researchers increasingly suggests that Canadians prefer to die at home or in their home communities.

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&nbspphoto credit: Bludgeoner86 Hosp_1013 via photopin (license)