Paramedics in six provinces to provide palliative care in the home

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New training for paramedics will increase access to palliative care in the home for patients and families, where they want it

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (the Partnership) and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) today announced that Canadians living with cancer and other life-limiting conditions will gain access to urgent palliative care when they need it, and where they want it. This will be achieved through paramedics trained in providing palliative and end-of-life care in the home, in collaboration with other health professionals.

Teams announced: The two organizations will provide funding and support to train over 5,000 paramedics to provide palliative and end-of life care in:

  • BC Emergency Health Services
  • Saskatchewan Health Authority Regina Area
  • Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority (Manitoba)
  • York Region Paramedic Services (Ontario)
  • Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
  • New Brunswick Department of Health
  • Eastern Health (Newfoundland and Labrador)

Evidence shows that having paramedics provide palliative care and end-of-life care in the home improves comfort and quality of life for people with debilitating illnesses, as well as their families. It also reduces the number of avoidable trips to the hospital and the use of health system resources, such as hospital beds and emergency departments and total time on a call for paramedics.

“Introducing this model of care in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island has improved access to palliative care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across our two provinces.  Paramedics feel this is some of the most rewarding work they do, and patients and families describe the relief they feel being more able to remain home with the support of this new program,” said Dr. Alix Carter, Medical Director of Research at EHS Nova Scotia and member of the Paramedics Providing Palliative Care at Home Program team in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. “I am so pleased that CFHI and CPAC are supporting this collaboration of paramedic services and palliative care to enable patients and families in many more regions across Canada to have this support.”

The Paramedics and Palliative Care: Bringing Vital Services to Canadians collaboration will run until spring 2022. This program is part of ongoing efforts by the Partnership and CFHI to improve Canada’s health system and ensure it responds to the needs of patients and families. It also supports the shared health priority of improving access to home and community care, including palliative and end-of-life care.

“A big part of achieving a more sustainable cancer system is finding ways to have vital supports provided to patients in their home and community,” said Cindy Morton, CEO of the Partnership. “Paramedics and Palliative Care is a big step in achieving this home-based support and we are excited to collaborate with CFHI to deliver these skills to paramedics across the country.”

The two organizations will jointly provide up to $5.5 million over the next four years to expand access to paramedics trained in providing palliative and end-of-life care to people in their homes. CFHI and the Partnership will support provincial health authorities and organizations across the country to adopt and adapt best practices.

“Access to quality palliative care services is essential for Canadians facing life-threatening and debilitating illnesses,” said the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health. “The recently released Framework on Palliative Care in Canada highlights the need to expand innovative projects like this one, which improve person-centred care and access to palliative care where and when it is needed.”

Quick facts

  • 86 per cent of Canadians believe palliative care should be provided at home as much as possible.
  • Of Canadians who have a preference, 75 per cent would prefer to die in their home.
  • Few Canadians (15 per cent) have early access to palliative home care.
  • 62 per cent of Canadians who received palliative care did so in an acute care hospital and mostly in their last month of life.
  • People who receive palliative care earlier are less likely to visit emergency departments frequently or receive aggressive treatment at the end of life.
  • 65–80 per cent of people receiving palliative care are those with cancer.