Forum provides voice on palliative care in the Shuswap

Input received will be analyzed and the North Okanagan-Shuswap Palliative Care Working Group will share results in December.

Improved palliative care for Shuswap residents moved forward last week at a well-attended community forum.

And that’s a good thing, because close to 40 per cent of respondents to a recent survey expressed dissatisfaction with how palliative care is delivered in the area.

People both from within and outside of the medical field filled the large ballroom at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort for last Wednesday’s forum.

Two guest speakers – Barb Pesut, a nurse and professor at UBC Okanagan and Terri Odeneal, a nurse and executive director of the Comox Valley Hospice Society, spoke about the importance of providing palliative and end-of- life care in one’s own community.

They advocated a team approach involving all care providers, but having only one member as the point person so patients are not having to go from place-to-place for answers.

Also important is that updated medical information travels with the patient as they go from home to hospital and back again – or to any other facility – so the story doesn’t have to to be told and re-retold.

Odeneal said that while she believed a free-standing hospice was the solution for Comox Valley when she began, the society has since chosen a “campus of care” model using 10 beds in the local hospital.

Care and support in the valley is provided, not just to the patient, but to caregivers and families.

“We have 10 beds with all the services needed for the dying and those left behind,” she said.

“It’s 7.5 years in the making and we’re proud of the plan. We know the services and supports will provide exemplary care.”

And that is something that summed up the speaker portion of the forum – palliative care is not about a particular place but a particular type of care.

Next up, Sharon Whitby, with Interior Health’s Community Integrated Health Services, shared results of a survey that was available in the hospital, in doctors’s offices and online.

The majority (45.6 per cent) of the 149 respondents were in the 40 to 59 age bracket and 81.2 per cent of them were women.

Some 40 per cent of the respondents were health care providers and only 25.9 per cent has or had a family member receiving palliative care.

In terms of how well respondents think the needs of terminally ill patients are being met in the Shuswap, most respondents felt there are gaps. Nursing care received the highest score at 25 per cent and only 4.4 per cent felt emotional care needs were being fully met.

Following a short break, forum members took part in three focus groups.

Input received will be analyzed and the North Okanagan-Shuswap Palliative Care Working Group will be sharing the results in the second week of December.