A new program at Niagara Health is enhancing care and access to services for palliative patients and their families. Niagara Health’s Palliative Care Consultation Service, which launched on March 2, provides patient care services, including managing symptoms, organizing home or hospice care, and social and emotional support.
The team consists of a group of physicians and nurse practitioners who offer in-person and phone consultations on a referral basis. The team works across Niagara Health’s Greater Niagara General, Welland and St. Catharines sites and is dedicated to meeting the needs of patients and their families.
“It may be something as simple as helping our patients get a few moments of fresh air outside of the hospital, a visit from a family pet, or having a loved one bring a musical instrument and play at the bedside,” says Dr. Andre Maddison, General Internist and Project Lead, Niagara Health. “We focus on how the patient is feeling and finding meaning at end of life.”
The program’s goals are to improve access to palliative care services and improve transitions between hospital and home or another community setting. A similar service currently exists for outpatients at the Walker Family Cancer Centre at the St. Catharines Site. The new program will build on those services to include inpatients (patients admitted to hospital) and Emergency Department patients.
When the healthcare team identifies patients and families who could benefit from these services, they will be referred to the program. Patients and families are encouraged to ask their healthcare provider about the new service and request a referral when needed.
The team cares for people with life-limiting illnesses, such as cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease, congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and dementia, at any point between diagnosis and end of life. They stay connected with patients referred to the program, and if patients are readmitted to the hospital the team will be notified.
“With this patient-centred approach, patients and families are empowered to manage their care more actively,” notes Derek McNally, Executive Vice-President Clinical Services & Chief Nursing Executive, Niagara Health. “We value our strong partnerships with Hospice Niagara, and home and community care services, to provide the best patient care experience possible.”
Over the next few months, the team will be expanding to include services such as, pharmacy, social work and spiritual care. “When palliative and supportive care is involved early in the patient care plan, it can lead to improved quality of life and emotional well-being for patients and their families,” notes Dr. Johan Viljoen, Chief of Staff & Executive Vice President Medical, Niagara Health.