Availability of services in Ontario hospices and hospitals providing inpatient palliative care

J Palliat Med. 2012 May;15(5):527-34. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2011.0453. Epub 2012 Apr 18.


Purpose: Most Canadians die in inpatient settings. Our aim was to determine the availability of medical services, programs, and care for common palliative procedures, in hospices, palliative care units (PCUs), and hospital medical wards (MWs) providing inpatient palliative care in Ontario, Canada.

Methods: We identified facilities providing inpatient palliative care using the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) and Hospice Association of Ontario (HAO) websites. An electronic survey was sent to the person responsible for palliative care at each facility. We compared services available among the three types of units, using Fisher's exact and Kruskal-Wallis tests.

Results: Of 128 surveys sent, 102 (80%) were completed and returned, from 58 MWs, 31 PCUs, and 13 hospices. MWs were the most common location of palliative care overall, particularly in rural areas. PCUs were most likely to provide care for common procedures (e.g., tracheostomy, nephrostomy; p<0.01); methadone for pain management (p<0.0001); and palliative radiation (p<0.01). MWs were most likely to offer intravenous chemotherapy and antibiotics (p<0.01). Transfusions were available in most PCUs and MWs, but only in one hospice (p<0.0001). Hospices were most likely to provide complementary therapies. Lack of financial support and human resources were the most frequent perceived barriers to providing quality palliative care.

Conclusions: There is considerable variability of available services depending on the setting where inpatient palliative care is provided. Further financial support and resources are required to ensure consistent high quality of care in both urban and rural areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Eligibility Determination
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Hospice Care*
  • Hospitals, Public
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Palliative Care*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Young Adult