Original Published 08:38 Apr 15, 2022

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Wheatland & Area Hospice Society (WAHS) presented to county council on April 5 during the regular council meeting, regarding how the organization fits into palliative care within the province. 

WAHS representative, Joni McNeely addressed council to give an update on the society, as well as hospice efforts within the community.

“The purpose of our society and what we imagine palliative care to be, is we want to make the last days to weeks to months a little bit easier, be a little better informed and help support people as issues arise,” said McNeely.

One of McNeely’s larger concerns, which she made known to council, was the inadequate amount of funding that palliative care is allowed by the province and the dramatic disparity in time spent at end of life with a professional caregiver, versus without.

“We know and the Alberta Government knows that palliative care is a specific specialty of medicine, but really, five per cent of palliative care is carried out by medical personnel,” said McNeely.

For the remainder of the time, McNeely explained, the patient is generally unattended to by medical personnel.

Much of the palliative care to those who are nearing the end of their lives is given and funded by family, friends and volunteers.

“With regard to the health care system … they (the province) are recognizing there is a huge dependency on volunteers and the community itself. We have lost our innate ability to care in the community for the dying,” said McNeely. “Doctors are sixth on the list of resources that families and patients seek help from. We realize that palliative care is no longer about the illness, it’s about the journey, the loss, the heartaches and the personal growth.”

McNeely also discussed at length about the need for more funding and more professional caregivers outside of a hospital setting.

Councillor Rick Laursen, empathizing with the need for more funding towards palliative care, inquired as to what would be necessary of the county to aid in the WAHS’s efforts. 

“This is a great thing. I know what I went through in 2018 with my father and the limited amount of funding that was available to allow for him to die in his home,” said Laursen. “How can we support these programs to switch the model? Back then, the funding for him to stay in the hospital was not transferrable to take him home.”

McNeely suggested the county continue to spread the message that majority of palliative care will be done in the community and to apply pressure to the provincial government to release funds for further care.

This item reprinted from Strathmore Times, Strathmore, Alberta