January 26, 2015

Mercy Medical Center and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network host palliative care forum

Mercy Medical Center and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) recently hosted an information session at Mercy focused on legislation that would improve the quality of life for patients with cancer and other chronic illnesses. Representatives from Mercy Cancer Center, Mercy Palliative Care Services and the ACS CAN shared information about palliative care and the policy changes that would help expand its access and benefits for seriously ill patients.

Elected officials in attendance included Congressman Bob Gibbs; State Representative Stephen Slesnick; City of Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry; and Stark County Commissioner Richard Regula. Representatives from the offices of Congressman Tim Ryan, Congressman Jim Renacci and Congressman Bill Johnson were also present.

Speakers included Jeff Stephens, director of government relations, ACS CAN; Ronald Crock, M.D., medical director of Mercy Hospice and Palliative Care Services; Nicole Haines, R.N., nurse navigator with Mercy Cancer Center and Mercy Palliative Care team member; and Edda Sedon, LSW, social service coordinator for Mercy Hospice and Mercy Palliative Care team member. Shauna Burkhard, daughter of a cancer and palliative care patient, also shared her perspective and personal insight to the palliative experience.

“Palliative care is what we all really want and need when faced with a chronic or life-altering illness,” said Karen Coughlin, administrative director of Mercy Cancer Center. “It helps improve quality of life through a patient and family-centered approach that focuses on the person and not just the disease by addressing physical, emotional, informational, social and spiritual needs. And most importantly, palliative care can be provided along with life-sustaining treatment.”

Palliative care is comprehensive treatment for the symptoms, discomfort and stress related to serious illness. The goal is to prevent and ease suffering and improve quality of life. Over the last 10 years, palliative care has been one of the fastest-growing trends in health care, according to statistics from the Center for Advance Palliative Care. Recent public opinion research by the national polling firm Public Opinion Strategies reveals that once patients understand what palliative care is, 92 percent report they would be highly likely to consider palliative care for themselves or their families if they had a serious illness.

Coughlin said that reimbursement for palliative services remains very minimal, which presents significant challenges for health care providers. Policy changes are needed to support the vital work of palliative care.

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is the nation’s leading cancer advocacy organization that is working every day to make cancer issues a national priority. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.

Mercy Medical Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

Pictured at the forum are speakers Ronald Crock, M.D., Nicole Haines, R.N., Edda Sedon, LSW, and Shauna Burkhard, daughter of a cancer and palliative care patient.

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