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Quebec hopeful of expanding palliative care without private agencies

Residents watch television at CHSLD Rose-de-Lima seniors residence Friday, March 12, 2021 in Laval, Quebec. (Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press) Residents watch television at CHSLD Rose-de-Lima seniors residence Friday, March 12, 2021 in Laval, Quebec. (Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press)
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Quebec Seniors Minister Sonia Bélanger wants to expand access to palliative care. However, with the end of private agencies, some are concerned about the feasibility of this goal due to a lack of resources.

As part of a webinar on palliative care organized Thursday by the Quebec College of Physicians (CMQ), Bélanger pointed out that funding for palliative care homes has been increased so that they can develop more places for this type of care and new day centres.

Her first act to improve access will be to take stock of the number of palliative care beds in hospitals and where they are located.

"We'll then be able to set targets to improve the quality of palliative care in the various hospitals. It's coming," said the minister in a videoconference.

Ultimately, her goal is for all CISSS, CIUSSS and hospital centres in Quebec to have a "well-structured palliative care program."

During the webinar, Bélanger answered a dozen questions from the 2,000 or so doctors and other health-care professionals who were present online.

One of them worried that without the use of private agencies, Bélanger would not be able to realize her commitment to more palliative care and more home care.

"We're in a difficult context of shortage, but we won't stop ourselves from developing the programs we need to develop for people's well-being," she said.

According to the PalliAmi Foundation, the number of patients requiring palliative care in Quebec is expected to jump from 44,000 today to 70,000 in 2050.

Bélanger said private agencies could continue to serve establishments to avoid "the slippage we are currently experiencing in our public health-care system."

"Some agencies will stay if they respect the conditions and are willing to continue contracting with establishments. We're not talking about the complete disappearance of employment agencies, but if they don't change their salary conditions, it's certain that a number of them will reconsider," she said.

The Ministry of Health hopes that private agency staff - who come from the public system - will return to the public network, Bélanger said.

She also pointed out that 1,000 more employees have been working in home-care services over the past two years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press health content receives funding through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for editorial choices. 

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