July 19, 2007
Judie Havers, Communications Consultant
Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
(519) 685-8500, ext. 58738
Anne Kay, Communications Consultant
Communication and Public Affairs
St. Joseph’s Health Care London
519-685-4292, ext. 42470
Palliative Care: Improving Quality of Life
(LONDON, Ontario) – Patients and families can experience physical, psychological, social and spiritual distress and suffering as a result of a life-threatening illness, and there is an important role for palliative medicine along the patient’s care journey. For more than 25 years, palliative care services in London have been provided for patients through the Department of Family Medicine. The service has a city-wide approach with an acute care consult team, family practice based acute palliative care services, and linkages with the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC). The Departments of Oncology and Family Medicine have joined forces to advance the Palliative Medicine Program for London’s hospitals and the Southwest LHIN.
Dr. Ingrid A. Harle, has accepted the joint position as Medical Director of the Palliative Medicine Program, London and Southwest LHIN. Dr. Harle will be responsible for palliative care beds at London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) Victoria and University Hospitals and at St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s (SJHC) Parkwood Hospital, as well as ambulatory palliative care clinics. She will also be the liaison with the CCAC.
Dr. Tom Freeman, City-wide Chief of Family Medicine, says, “This collaboration between Oncology and Family Medicine is a natural fit. Both programs manage the care of patients with debilitating diseases and Palliative Medicine plays a significant role in managing the consequences of those illnesses.”
One of the first initiatives for the Palliative Medicine Program was the implementation of an ambulatory Palliative Medicine Clinic for oncology patients launched at the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP), LHSC on Friday, March 30, 2007, under the direction of Dr. Harle.
“Palliative care touches every part of the health care system,” says Ken Deane, Chief Operating Officer, Clinical Services, LHSC and SJHC. “The initial focus will be on cancer patients but there is the intent to expand the program to other chronic diseases.”
An interdisciplinary team including physicians specializing in palliative medicine, nursing, social work and spiritual care is available in the clinic. The goal of the clinic is to work collaboratively with patients’ other health care providers and be a quality resource in palliative medicine. Clinics will be held every Friday afternoon from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. at LRCP.
“A tremendous amount of work has been done towards creating a smooth transition for patients from treatment focused on impacting the disease, to efforts to relieve suffering and improve quality of life,” says Brian Orr, Regional Vice President, LHSC, LRCP and Cancer Care Ontario.
A lack of trained professionals and difficulty in accessing specialists are obstacles to achieving a high standard of care in palliative medicine. Dr. Harle, who also holds an academic appointment in the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, will coordinate educational activities and encourage research in palliative medicine.
“This program will provide opportunities for the education of undergraduate medical students and graduate students in various residency training programs,” says Dr. Harle. “The concept of medicine being an art and a science is best exemplified in Palliative Medicine where we strive to provide those patients with a life-threatening illness the opportunity to live life fully with dignity and respect, to receive optimal symptom management and to diminish human suffering. Our goal would be to, ultimately, support a post graduate fellowship program in Palliative Medicine.”
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