Palliative care unit announced for Lunenburg, Queens counties

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A new five-bed palliative care unit will open this fall at Fishermen's Memorial Hospital. (Shaun Best/Reuters - image credit)
A new five-bed palliative care unit will open this fall at Fishermen's Memorial Hospital. (Shaun Best/Reuters - image credit)

Trudy Johnson tells the story of her daughter and a neighbour to illustrate how important it is to have access to palliative care.

Johnson's 35-year-old daughter died from cancer earlier this year, spending the final days of her life in a private palliative room in the Halifax area.

The Lunenburg resident's neighbour, meanwhile, spent his final days in a four-bedroom ward locally with just a curtain for privacy because there wasn't a dedicated local palliative care space.

That's about to change.

Johnson, chair of the South Shore Hospice Palliative Care Society, was on hand for an announcement Wednesday that a new five-bed palliative care unit for Queens and Lunenburg counties would be established at Fishermen's Memorial Hospital.

CBC
CBC

The province will spend $1 million a year on the unit, which is expected to open this fall.

Johnson described access to such services as getting "a giant hug."

"You have people embracing you at your end of life and being able to be with you with dignity and comfort and care and knowing that they love you," she said.

"If you're in a ward with a curtain pulled or in a hallway, there's no privacy. There's no dignity in end of life and I think we all deserve that."

Dr. Brendan Carr, the CEO of the province's health authority, said the announcement is a step toward creating a more integrated health-care system and addressing voids that exist around the province.

CBC
CBC

Lunenburg County has the oldest population in the province and for years there has been no dedicated palliative care space for it or Queens County.

Carr said it's also a good example of working with communities to assess their needs and determine the best possible uses for community hospitals.

"In some ways, it feels like we're struggling to try to keep hospitals doing the job that they did 10 or 20 years ago and sometimes at the risk of not engaging the local communities to ask the question of what would really be most meaningful and valuable for that community today," he said.

The matter was raised earlier this year during debate at Province House. At the time, Health Minister Zach Churchill committed to looking into it and working toward a solution.

Premier Iain Rankin said during the announcement that the money for the unit comes from the existing budget. He said his government is committed to finding the best possible ways to use community hospitals while ensuring each part of the province has access to necessary services.

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