The Nova Scotia government has announced $1 million for the first year of a new strategy to improve palliative care.

Health Minister Leo Glavine says the goal is move toward a more integrated approach with health professionals and community organizations and to focus more on patients' end-of-life needs.

Chris MacDougall says the announcement is long overdue.

His 14-year-old son Charlie was sick for more than three years and spent many months in hospital. He was cared for at home during his final months.

“Literally, on the day that he passed away, was the last day that we saw the palliative care people," says MacDougall. "Everything was cut off."

The local hospice society was just getting up and running at the time and MacDougall’s family didn’t know where to turn.

“It’s critical to have that support to try and get people back on their feet,” he says.

“Having said that, you have to start somewhere, and the fact that this has been announced and some attention is going to be brought to bear on the palliative care and the hospice system is a great first step.”

Dr. David Henderson works in palliative care and welcomes improvements to end-of-life care.

“Chris’ story was a great example of some of the gaps we were facing and one big one was with grief support,” says Henderson.

The province’s strategy includes the establishment of an advisory committee to guide its implementation.

A provincial palliative care co-ordinator will also be hired, along with additional palliative care team members in South Shore, Annapolis Valley and Capital district health authorities this year.

“This position is actually going to be housed kind of through Cancer Care Nova Scotia,” says Henderson. “Cancer Care Nova Scotia has a great track record of being a mover and shaker and helping to make things happen.”

“I think having a province-wide strategy allows for an overview of what’s needed provincially so that people will have access to equitable services and supports and people understand what’s available to them,” says Colleen Cash of the Nova Scotia Hospice Palliative Care Association.

Funding will also go to the Nova Scotia Hospice Palliative Care Association to begin educating the public and care providers on the importance of advance planning when a patient is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster and The Canadian Press