Niagara-area paramedic Lisa Bath has been awarded the 2023 Elizabeth J. Latimer Prize in Palliative Care, named for the McMaster University professor who helped transform palliative care in Hamilton and beyond.
Bath, an advanced care paramedic with Niagara Emergency Medical Services, is receiving the award for her leadership and involvement in a research project that could potentially transform community-based palliative care in Ontario.
She was presented with the award on Feb. 23 by McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine’s division of palliative care.
“I am humbled beyond belief and was truly at a loss for words when I first found out about the Latimer Prize, as I never dreamed of being nominated for anything like this,” said Bath.
The award named in Latimer’s honour recognizes a Hamilton-area palliative care clinician, teacher, researcher, or administrator who best represents her spirit through a record of research and practice in end-of-life care. Candidates for the award must show a commitment to professional collaboration, innovation, perseverance, a track record of leadership, shaping policy and either academic or clinical excellence.
The prize was established in 2009, three years before Latimer’s death in 2012.
“It is an honour for our whole team to be included in the group of previous Latimer Prize recipients. Without my team members’ contributions, neither this project nor our award would ever have happened,” said Bath.
Bath’s role and research focuses on the effectiveness of community care for people needing palliative care, who are not registered with a support team or a family doctor.
Since the project started in October 2019, Niagara-area paramedics taking part in the project administer these patients’ medications at home, typically for pain, nausea or breathlessness.
Bath and teams work is the first time that Ontario paramedics have received palliative care-specific training to properly administer many of the most common symptom relief medications for palliative patients.
Bath said all other Ontario jurisdictions require patients to be registered with both a community palliative care team and their local ambulance service, as well as having a ‘do not resuscitate’ order in place.
Under the care system devised by Bath’s team, people needing palliative care only need to show they have a diagnosed condition that will cause their death in six to 12 months, which also disrupts their daily living activities.
“Comprehensive palliative care delivered at home can reduce the number of avoidable emergency department visits, while respecting an individual’s choice to die at home,” said Bath.
“Our care model allows us to treat these people, who would otherwise fall through the cracks, with their appropriate end-of-life medications. My hope is the rest of the province adopts our model, as the data shows that it has made a huge difference in our community by keeping patients out of hospital and in their homes, if that is where they wish to spend their final days.”
Denise Marshall, a professor of the Department of Family Medicine’s division of palliative care, said that “There is absolutely no doubt to any of us in Niagara region healthcare, including the Niagara West Palliative Care Team and our circle of providers, that Lisa Bath was the change agent to bring palliative care emergency medical services to our area.”
“She was the driving force on the absolute front line, in the vital role of an actual first responder who knew what patients were lacking and needed. Her credibility in this regard cannot be overstated.”