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Governor McAuliffe signs palliative care legislation at Massey

Speakers at the bill signing ceremony were Governor Terry McAuliffe, VCU President Michael Rao, Delegate David Bulova, Senator L. Louise Lucas and Brian Donohue, director of government relations at American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Yesterday in a ceremony at VCU Massey Cancer Center, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Virginia’s Palliative Care Information and Resources Bill. This legislation requires the Virginia Department of Health to use their website to make information and resources on palliative care available to the public, health care professionals and health care facilities. The bill was sponsored by Delegate David Bulova and Senator L. Louise Lucas and is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

Palliative care is a medical specialty focused on improving the quality of life of patients with a serious illness like cancer by managing symptoms and relieving pain and stress. Palliative care is provided by an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists and chaplains, all working together to identify the needs of patients and their families and the best interventions to address those needs.

“This bill is designed to remove one of the biggest barriers to patients receiving palliative care,” said Governor McAuliffe. “By eliminating confusion among patients and health care professionals, we can build a common and comprehensive understanding of how palliative care can improve quality of life for patients suffering from cancer and other diseases.”

Research shows that patients with a serious illness who receive palliative care spend less time in the hospital, have fewer trips to emergency rooms and fewer hospital readmissions and experience a better quality of life during and after treatment. But many patients do not know how to access palliative care, and there is a common misunderstanding among patients and health care professionals that palliative care is limited to end-of-life care.

“This bill will help improve access to palliative care,” said Egidio Del Fabbro, M.D., program director of palliative care at Massey. “Palliative care can be provided alongside any life-prolonging or curative therapy. The real advantage of palliative care is that it provides an extra layer of support for patients and their families to address their physical, psychosocial, emotional and spiritual needs. Patients generally see improvement in their quality of life as a result.”

Massey Cancer Center has been at the forefront of palliative care for decades and is transforming the standards of palliative care through clinical practice, education and research. Massey’s program earned the prestigious Circle of Life Award for advancing the practice of medicine by integrating palliative care into the treatment of cancer. It was also the first palliative care program in Virginia to earn the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for its high quality and excellence. Massey provides palliative care through a consult service, on an inpatient basis in the Thomas Palliative Care Unit and on an outpatient basis in the supportive care clinic. Massey also offers palliative radiotherapy for the alleviation of pain in hospice cancer patients.

Learn more about Massey’s palliative care program at http://www.massey.vcu.edu/patient-care/therapies/palliative-care/massey/

Written by: Jenny Owen

Posted on: May 18, 2017