One palliative bed in a district of approximately 50,000 people is not enough.
Those were the sentiments of Carol Dowe of the Oceanside Palliative Caregivers when she spoke to Qualicum Beach town council on Monday night. Dowe was appealing to council and members and the public to write to Island Health, MLA Michelle Stilwell and the B.C. Minister of Health requesting funding for more palliative beds for Parksville Qualicum Beach.
“We are one of the oldest populations in Canada and we are being left behind and forgotten,” she said.
Dowe said that Ladysmith, with a population of 8,000, has two palliative beds, Port Alberni has four, Comox has been awarded four and Nanaimo has 12.
Currently, if a local resident has chosen to spend their last days at home, but they suffer from acute pain, they are transported to Nanaimo hospital to use its palliative beds and that makes it very difficult for their loved ones, Dowe said. “It is exhausting physically to drive back and forth as well as emotionally draining,” she said.
Dowe said it costs Island Health $1,400 a day to run the palliative beds at Nanaimo hospital while there are beds available in local care homes and that would cost around $200, she said.
Lois Cosgrave, Director for home and Community Care and End of Life with Island Health said a forecast has been completed that looks at end of life beds across the Island.
“We certainly know there is a need for beds in the Oceanside area, the bed plan is currently with the province in conjunction with their strategy to double hospice beds, so that’s under review and we will move forward with that,” she said, adding Island Health will set priorities for the implementation of the beds, contingent on resources.
The provincial government announced in its speech from the throne in June last year that it would double the number of hospice beds by 2020.
Cosgrave said a working group that formed one year ago is currently looking at end of life services in the area, made up of a number of community partners including Island Health, Hospice Society, physicians, patients, the SOS and the Salvation Army.
She said that although people in the area are keen on having more palliative beds, end of life care is about more than just beds and the group is also looking at other services to meet people’s needs, whether they choose to die at home or in a hospice bed.
MLA Michelle Stilwell said she’s supportive of hospice and palliative care as a priority in the community and that currently this region has the best home care services on the Island.
It is complicated in the Qualicum Beach area, she said, with an increasing numbers of aging family care givers and people passing on, as well as a decreasing amount of available caregivers, she said.
She’s been meeting with the Hospice Society in Qualicum Beach and she is very supportive of its initiatives, she said.
“The goal is to increase the number of hospice spaces by 100 per cent by 2020, and that’s throughout the province, so that may or may not come specifically to Qualicum but I am absolutely advocating for our community as best I can with the Ministry of Health.”