Hospice palliative care centre comes to New Brunswick

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Hospice Saint John and Sussex and the Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation have forged a partnership that will make a difference in palliative care in New Brunswick. Earlier this year, the two organizations announced their intent to develop this province’s first Regional Hospice Palliative Care Centre. Members of the development committee expect that this new centre will ensure that dying people and their families in southwestern New Brunswick have easy access to comprehensive, coordinated, quality hospice palliative care; care that can relieve suffering and improve the quality of living and dying. Today less than one-quarter of those in end-stages of life have access to this kind of care.

Dora Nicinski, President and CEO of Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation explains that the proposed new centre is in keeping with the Canadian Norms of Practice (Standards) for Hospice Palliative Care released in May 02 by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association. “Such a patient-focused centre also supports recommendations contained in the Romanow Report calling for increased palliative home care services,” she says. “It’s a very timely announcement given that researchers predict that as early as next year deaths will actually begin to out-pace births in this province.”

The centre, the first of its kind in New Brunswick, will give patients, families, caregivers and health-care providers in this region a single point of contact for hospice palliative care services. Six core programs will be designed to include medical/clinical services with new ambulatory clinics in Saint John, Sussex and St. Stephen, along with a new outpatient consultation service for non-ambulatory patients and a 24-hour community pain and symptom management team. Additional programs will include a comprehensive psychosocial/spiritual support program, a practical support program, education, research and a referral service. The new centre will benefit from the addition of a full-time social worker to coordinate the psychological/spiritual support program.

Ten experienced nurses from the Extra-Mural program have received specialized training in hospice/palliative care and will work with staff of the centre to enhance the care provided to patients who choose to die at home. Sue Ness, nurse administrative director for the Extra-Mural Program in this region explains that these resource nurses will also be available as experts and mentors to the Extra-Mural Program.

Dr. Chris O’Brien, medical director for the palliative care unit at the Saint John Regional Hospital elaborates on how patients and families can access the centre. “Patients and their families can access the services of this centre upon referral from their family physician or specialist. Ambulatory patients will be seen in one of three clinics, while the consult team is prepared to travel to non-ambulatory patients,” he says. The centre will also be equipped to accept responsibility for palliative patients who do not have a family physician.

“Hospice palliative care relieves suffering and improves the quality of living and dying. More than 1,200 people die of advanced stage illness in southwestern New Brunswick each year. These are people who can benefit from a Hospice Palliative Care Centre,” says radiation oncologist Dr. Nancy Grant, founder and honorary chairperson of Hospice Saint John.