U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree will be at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough on Monday to promote legislation that would fund increased training for health care professionals in palliative and hospice care.
The proposed Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (H.R. 3119) also would launch a national campaign to inform patients and families about the benefits of palliative care, and enhance research to improve the delivery of palliative care.
The bill aims to increase training in end-of-life care in a nation where medical schools have given short shrift or largely ignored a rapidly aging population and the growing demand for long-term palliative and hospice care.
The legislation would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to spend $44 million annually for five years to fund as many as 24 palliative care and hospice education centers. They would train medical school faculty members and health care providers who agree to work in the field for at least five years.
“Access to high-quality palliative and hospice care is so important to relieve suffering and improve quality of life,” Pingree said in a news release. “But the truth is, there isn’t adequate training and education available to meet the need.”
Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st District, was among the first co-sponsors of the bill, which was proposed in July 2015 and is now supported by more than 200 members of Congress. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is one of eight senators sponsoring a similar proposal.
As of April 2015, there were 106 accredited hospice and palliative care training programs in the United States providing instruction to about 265 physicians per year, or about 5,300 over the next 20 years, according to the bill.
The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine identified a current need for at least 6,000 physicians trained in hospice and palliative care, and untold demand as an estimated 70 million additional Medicare beneficiaries enter the system over the next 20 years.
“We must put more focus on training the palliative care workforce and invest in more research to make sure that patients and their families are getting the best possible care in times of their greatest need,” Pingree said.
The need for palliative and hospice care is especially important for people who have Alzheimer’s and other dementias, nearly half of whom are in hospice care when they die, according to the Alzheimer’s Association Maine Chapter.
For people with advanced dementia, palliative care and hospice care – which focus on managing and easing symptoms, reducing pain and stress, and increasing comfort – improve quality of life, control medical costs and enhance patient and family satisfaction.
“We believe that access to high-quality palliative and hospice care is vitally important in helping relieve pain, manage symptoms and improve the quality life for all individuals,” said Daryl Cady, CEO of Hospice of Southern Maine, which operates Gosnell House and provides hospice care at home.
The bill also would require the National Institutes of Health to expand research programs in palliative care, and would require the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to provide for a national education and awareness campaign to inform patients, families and health professionals about the benefits of palliative care.