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NDP palliative-care motion gets through Commons, now up to Tories to respond

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OTTAWA - The House of Commons passed an Opposition motion Wednesday that calls on the federal government to come up with a national strategy on palliative care.

And while she's not promising to launch a formal effort to create such a strategy, Health Minister Rona Ambrose says she supports the call.

The non-binding motion put forward by New Democrat MP Charlie Angus passed in a rare near-unanimous vote, with only a single Bloc Quebecois MP turning it down.

It calls on the Harper Conservatives to work with the provinces and territories to ensure access to "high quality home-based and hospice palliative care."

Angus says it's not a case of spending a lot more money — governments are already providing the services.

But the palliative care system in Canada is fractured, and can be improved under a national strategy, said Angus.

"The issue that we're dealing with right across this country — it doesn't matter whether you're in downtown Toronto or in the rural north — is that there is already a patchwork of services, and there's not a cohesive sense across the country of the needs of palliative care and how to bring integrated health responses," he said.

The motion calls on Ottawa to develop a strategy that takes into account "the geographic, regional, and cultural diversity of urban and rural Canada," and respects different cultures and family needs.

It also calls on governments to provide more support for caregivers.

Ambrose noted that the government has invested more than $43 million in palliative care research since 2006, and another $3 million to support training of front-line health care providers in palliative care.

"Our government understands the difficult challenges faced by Canadian families when they are caring for aging loved ones," she said in a statement.

"We supported the motion and will continue to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that Canadians receive the highest level of care."

Angus says a national strategy will help families deal with end-of-life issues and assist people to live out their final years with dignity.

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