Canadians watched the election results roll in on Tuesday with rapt attention—myself included. While I’m Canadian, having completed much of my training in the US, I was obviously very much interested. In the run-up to this week’s election in the United States a great deal of time was spent talking about ‘Obamacare’ and the virtues and evils of the system. While certainly the changes made by Obama result in something that is a far cry from the type of system we have here (or in any of the other OECD countries), the fact that upon its implementation more, rather than fewer, patients across the country have access to health care cannot be seen as anything other than a positive.
But there remains much work to be done there in terms of access to palliative care. In 54% of public hospitals less than 40% of sole community provider provide access to their patients. There’s also a significant lack of board-certified palliative physicians. In one state, Mississippi, there is just one doctor available per 1,698 medicare (public system) deaths.
But beyond our neighbours to the south, the state of palliative health globally is extremely varied in both quality and access.
In a country with one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world, the Kingdom of Jordan, it’s estimated that 10,000 people die every year without the access they need to palliative services.
In New South Wales, Australia, just 10% of those dying from predictable (non-cancer) illnesses receive end-of-life care.
Only four of the 53 African countries have palliative care frameworks included in their health systems—a growing concern as HIV/AIDS continues to ravage the continent.
I’m hardly the first person to talk about how lucky we are, as Canadians, to have a publicly-funded health care system. Yes, the system isn’t perfect, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; by and large the level of access to services we have in this country is envied by many the world over. I didn’t hear the words “palliative health” uttered even once during the months upon months of American campaigning. It still does not appear to be a global health priority, and it needs to be.