Madam Speaker, I am honoured to speak in favour of Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a national framework for palliative care in Canada. This bill is important. It would benefit Canadians right across the country and also at home in Lakeland. I would like to congratulate the member for Sarnia-Lambton for her steadfast advocacy and for highlighting this priority need across the country. I know that this bill is the result of months and months of hard work and dedication by the member, and I congratulate her.
Canadians work hard, live busy lives, and expect one day to have the option of end-of-life care. The goal of this bill is to support improved access for Canadians to palliative care by creating a national framework, with the intent of expanding the availability and quality of front-line services in communities across Canada. That result would increase options and reduce the burden on family members by providing vital end-of-life care for their loved ones. This aim supports the dignity and comfort all Canadians deserve in the final stages of their lives.
This bill is also the distillation of the work of my colleagues on the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care. The committee published an excellent report, which outlined the current Canadian landscape with respect to palliative care. Through studies and assessments, the committee conducted a full review of current palliative care options in Canada while identifying specific areas that require improvement. All Canadians and all political parties can and should support this bill.
Right now there are only 200 hospices across Canada, so there is clearly a need for universal palliative care options. The framework provided in this bill would provide a definition of palliative care and identify the training needed for palliative care in Canada. It would also consider amending the Canada Health Act to include palliative care as a guaranteed health care option. Additionally, the act would outline periodic report releases from the Minister of Health highlighting gaps and recommendations for the framework of palliative care.
I am concerned about the Liberals' approach to palliative care in Canada so far. Although the Liberals are supportive of this initiative to date, they started their mandate by making a significant promise to Canadians: an immediate $3-billion investment for home care, including palliative care. However, the Liberals have changed course a bit. They are using the urgency of palliative care in communities as a bargaining tool, a stick, in negotiations with provinces. Those provinces that have agreed to the Liberals' terms when renegotiating the health accord were given funding for both mental health and home care, while others that had not yet agreed to those terms received nothing.
This priority is too important to use as political leverage like that, because the need for palliative care will never go away. In fact, 80% of Canadians receiving palliative care are cancer patients. Right now, two out of five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetimes, and that statistic is expected to increase by 2030. These patients deserve a comfortable end-of-life option. The problem is that 30% of Canadians do not have access to palliative care services.
The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians says that palliative care should be available in homes, hospices, hospitals, and long-term care centres throughout Canada, but it is not. Availability depends on where one lives, how old one is, and what one is dying from. This needs to change. The CSPCP goes on to say that strategic investments in palliative care have been shown to reduce the cost of delivering care by about 30%. Presently it costs about $1,200 a day to remain in the hospital, $400 a day to remain in hospice care, and $200 a day to receive home care. To reduce these costs by at least 30% would offer more opportunities for Canadians, free up scarce resources in health care facilities, and ultimately improve the quality of life and care for patients suffering from serious and terminal illnesses.
This is important, because Canadians are suffering from chronic and terminal conditions in growing numbers. Good palliative care covers a wide range of services, such as acute care, hospice care, home care, crisis care, and spiritual and psychological counselling.
Support from Canadians is evident across the country. There have been 83 petitions on palliative care presented in the House by members of Parliament in this session alone. Thousands of letters have been received by members of Parliament on all sides of the House. I personally have received dozens of letters from constituents across Lakeland outlining the need for palliative care options, particularly for seniors, who have limited options for end-of-life care. Right now, Statistics Canada confirms that there are more seniors in Canada than children. With an increased demand for health care, hospitals, and clinics, the option for hospice care has clearly never been more important.
Communities in Lakeland are fortunate to have access to health care and consultants in all regions of the riding, but more can be done and needs to be done to ensure greater access for everyone. Remote and rural regions of the country like Lakeland do not always offer the same robust services as urban centres and highly populated areas. Regional accessibility is an important consideration for a national strategy, and one we cannot ignore.
The current palliative care options in Canada are inadequate and do not meet the needs of Canadians. That is what this framework seeks to address.
In 2011, it is estimated that only 16% to 30% of those in need were receiving proper palliative and end-of-life care. The current health care system favours short-term acute care, which it does extremely well, but experts report that the system lacks the capacity and the funding to properly and consistently provide quality long-term palliative care. The cost of acute care is four times that of hospice palliative care, so clearly there is an opportunity to provide long-term, consistent care responsibly. It is a challenge that provincial governments and elected representatives at all levels face and must take on.
The proper training of medical practitioners and nurse practitioners is an important step in creating a comprehensive and well-equipped palliative care structure. On average, medical and nursing students spend as little as 20 hours of their four years of study learning about palliative and end-of-life care. In 2011, there were fewer than 200 geriatricians in Canada. Today, the estimated need is upwards of 600.
Bill C-277 would also have a positive impact on the lives of caregivers. In 2011, there were an estimated four million to five million family caregivers in Canada. They contribute $25 billion to the health care system. These same selfless caregivers often bear a heavier financial burden and have to miss one or more months of work because of their duties. Family caregivers provide 80% of all home care in Canada, and 77% of these caregivers are women.
These numbers are not to be taken lightly. Caregivers experience financial, social, and physical burdens that can have lasting effects on their lives. The Canadian Cancer Society says that Canadian caregivers are the invisible backbone of the health care system, providing $25 billion in unpaid care.
This added support would encourage palliative care in the home, which has been demonstrated to be beneficial for everyone involved. Allowing patients to stay in their homes for as long as possible is a compassionate choice that should be available to every Canadian. We have a duty to those Canadians.
Many Canadians who require palliative care are seniors or veterans. Seniors built our communities, founded our businesses, created opportunities for future generations, and supported our economy. Seniors built this great country, fought in wars, raised their kids, and laid the foundation for the free and prosperous Canada in which we are so fortunate to live.
It is our fundamental responsibility to ensure that the most vulnerable are taken care of, and when these individuals, who have done so much for us, need the most support, it is Canada's turn to give back to them. That is a core reason that I support this important bill. I encourage all members of the House to do the same.
I thank my colleague again for all of the good work she has done in bringing forward this pressing need.