Now that assisted dying is in Canada, most Canadians are still waiting for funding for palliative care. During Question Period on March 1, 2017, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, appeared before the Senate to answer questions associated with her ministerial responsibilities. To find out what the government is doing to keep their promise of palliative care for Canadians, the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr., Senator from Ontario, followed up with the Minister by asking the following question:
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Thank you for being here with us again, minister. My question is about the $3 billion funding for palliative care that was promised in your election platform. I had the opportunity to ask the Government Representative about it on May 5 last year, to which I received a written response, on September 27, that concluded:
We look forward to announcing details once an agreement has been finalized.
Then, on November 24 last year, our colleague Senator Eaton asked a similar question of your representative in this chamber, and he ended his intervention with:
. . . I will seek an update to answer more specifically the questions that have been posed.
The answer was tabled today, and it says:
. . . which indicated an ongoing collaboration with provinces and territories.
Now that you have finalized agreements with five provinces and three territories, can you please provide this chamber with an update on how your government is ensuring that you are delivering on your promise? How much of the $3 billion has the Trudeau government delivered — I mean delivered, not promised — that went specifically for palliative care?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you for the question. Some of this we covered earlier, so I will give a few further details about the fact that, in the Health Accord agreement with the provinces and territories, on which not all have come to a final agreement but we hope we’ll have good news on that soon, we did commit $6 billion rather than the $3 billion. We had some indication from the provinces and territories that they wanted a longer term funding model so that they could build out programs and not be concerned about whether the funding would end at a certain period of time, and so we expanded it to $6 billion over 10 years for this. That will, hopefully for many provinces if not all, soon be flowing very quickly once those agreements have been reached.
What we’re doing with that Health Accord money is coming to some understanding, with the provinces and territories, about how it will be used, including areas like palliative care, and then asking also for some agreement, some standardized set of metrics, so that we will be able to see that it’s being used well. I will give you an example that might help to make it more real to you.
Nova Scotia was one of the early provinces to come on board and agree to accept the money and to use it in this way. Early on, after the agreement was made, I went on a visit to both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to see exactly the kinds of things that they wanted to put the money that they were getting for home care and palliative care into, how they were planning to use it. Nova Scotia had a fantastic project of palliative care where they’re actually using paramedics to go to people’s homes, and I met with the paramedics who are part of this. They’ve had a very successful program where, when people are in palliative care and are reaching the end of life, rather than them calling up in distress and being transported to hospital where they might never be able to leave and get back home, they sent out paramedics with instructions and very detailed guidelines as to how people could be cared for at home and how they could make better contact with the hospital, with the goal of trying to keep people at home. The early evidence is that that’s been very successful, so it’s programs like that that the provinces will choose.
This program was in a certain part of the province. They’re going to expand that now to the entire province. We’re also going to be able to measure how successful it is so that, if other provinces want to look at this and perhaps replicate it, they can. I think we’re going to see some very interesting results about how the provinces use these new, targeted resources, and we’ll be able to have good evidence as to the outcomes.