Canada has moved one step closer to creating new national guidelines for palliative care following the Senate's passage of a private member's bill this week.
The legislation was adopted more than a year after it was first introduced in the House of Commons by Sarnia-Lambton Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu in 2016.
"This is the best gift at Christmas time that Canadians could receive," Gladu told National Observer Friday.
The bill, "An Act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada," is expected to receive royal assent, or come into force, on Tuesday, Dec. 12. Gladu explained that the legislation incorporated recommendations made by an all-party committee report on palliative and end-of-life care.
The legislation requires the government to come up with a palliative care framework.
In an e-mail Friday, Thierry Bélair, a spokesman for Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, told National Observer: "The framework is expected to define palliative care, the training needs of, and other supports for, health care providers and other caregivers, as well as (find) ways to facilitate consistent access to palliative care in Canada."
A final framework is also expected to "promote research" and "evaluate whether to re-establish a secretariat on palliative care and end-of-life care."
Bélair noted health care falls primarily under provincial and territorial government jurisdiction, and the federal government is committed to working with them to improve palliative care access. "In addition, our government continues to support pan-Canadian initiatives that enhance quality palliative and end-of-life care, as well as a range of programs and services, such as family caregiver benefits and resources."
Gladu said the federal health minister would need to meet with the provinces over the next half-year to develop a "plan to get consistent access to palliative care for all Canadians."
"We have to define the services that the federal government is going to cover in palliative care, the levels of training for the different service providers and caregivers, the data collection," Gladu said, adding the framework should be established within a year and the federal government would be making transfer payments for defined palliative care services.
End-of-life care can include acute, hospice, home, and crisis care, as well as counselling. Options are particularly difficult to access in rural, remote and northern areas, however, the Ontario MP noted.
"We need to get palliative care for all Canadians," she said. "When there is good quality palliative care, people choose to live as well as they can as long as they can."
In Budget 2017, the Liberal government committed $6 billion over 10 years for home care and $5 billion for mental health care over the same period.
The palliative care bill was unanimously supported among members of parliament and senators — a win for the rookie MP who has been recognized by her colleagues as "most collegial" while making headlines for her quirky style. Earlier this month, Gladu recited a poem in the House of Commons, describing the Conservatives as the only party that "stands in the way" of marijuana legalization.