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Sydney hospice residence is the ‘missing piece of the puzzle’
Local palliative-care doctor says facility would provide excellence in end-of-life care

Article: Laura Jean Grant | Cape Breton Post | May 16, 2016

SYDNEY — If a hospice residence becomes reality it would lift some of the pressure off the acute care system, according to a local palliative-care physician.

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Dr. Anne Frances D’Intino said Cape Breton’s demographics — a growing elderly population and a shrinking younger population — mean that many people requiring end-of-life care are ending up in acute care beds, simply because they don’t have family members in the immediate area to care for them at home.

“Many elderly patients arrive in acute-care hospital and would like to go to a home-like setting but can’t go home again and so they spend their last weeks to months of life in acute care beds,” she said. “The hospice fulfils the missing piece of the puzzle because the hospice would provide that end-of-life care in a home-like setting for those who would wish to be at home at end-of-life but cannot because of lack of available caregivers or care needs that outstrip what a caregiver can provide.”

Last week, the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County announced a partnership with BCA Group and Membertou, in which the three organizations are now working together toward the establishment of a 10-bed residential hospice.

D’Intino, a hospice society board member, said such a facility would allow the nine-bed acute care An Cala palliative-care unit in the Cape Breton Regional Hospital to function more the way it was originally designed.

“The An Cala palliative-care unit was always meant to be an acute pain and symptom management unit so patients could come there to have their pain and symptoms controlled and then return to their preferred setting of care,” she explained. “In most cases, this was never meant to be a hospice, it was never end-of-life care, but it has had to take on that role because we see patients dying in (other) acute care settings where the family and patient needs more privacy, and so we move them to the An Cala unit, but that’s not what it was meant for.”

D’Intino said there are distinct differences between end-of-life care, where the focus is primarily on providing comfort, and acute care, where the focus is primarily on returning the patient to good health.

We think that an acute care bed is not the best place for people who are at end-of-life. We know that care can be provided in a much more cost-effective way in a hospice where the focus of care is comfort,” she said.

With Membertou committed to providing land for the residential hospice, and the BCA Group set to raise the money needed for construction of it, the local hospice society is hoping the provincial government will now sign on to the project and agree to fund the facility’s annual operating costs.

“The one piece we need is for the Department of Health and the Nova Scotia Health Authority to take on the operational budget so that the care can be provided in the hospice,” said D’Intino. “There’s no question in my mind that it would be an incredible step forward for excellence in end-of-life care for our community.”

ljgrant@cbpost.com