The Delta Hospice Society will have until the end of March to vacate the Irene Thomas Hospice, according to a statement by the health minister and the Fraser Health Authority.
On Friday morning (Jan. 15), Health Minister Adrian Dix, Fraser Health board chair Jim Sinclair and Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee issued a statement laying out the future of hospice care in Delta after the health authority’s service agreement with the Delta Hospice Society (DHS) expires on Feb. 25.
In February of last year, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the Fraser Health Authority had given the society a year’s notice that it would terminate its contract with the society after the board voted not to provide medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner.
The facility is located on Fraser Health property adjacent to Delta Hospital, rented to the society for $1 a year, and the health authority provides the hospice with $1.5 million in annual funding, which covers 94 per cent of the 10-bed centre’s operating costs.
“Throughout this process, our goal has been to maintain consistency of services for the individuals and families receiving care at the Irene Thomas Hospice and for the community of Delta. Our preference has always been to keep hospice beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice. On two occasions, Fraser Health proposed to the society that Fraser Health be permitted to take over hospice operations, to ensure hospice services can continue at that location using existing staff. However, on both occasions, the society was unreceptive to this proposal,” the statement reads.
Under the terms of its agreement with the DHS, Fraser Health says it will serve the society 30 days’ notice to vacate the premises on Feb. 25. The notice to vacate will apply to both the Irene Thomas Hospice and the Harold & Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, as both buildings are on the same property and under the same lease.
As part of its transition plan, Fraser Health will open five hospice beds at Mountain View Manor, a Fraser Health-owned and operated long-term care facility located on the Delta Hospital campus, that same day. A further five hospice beds will open at the facility by mid-April.
Residents currently residing at the Irene Thomas Hospice will continue to stay at the facility and receive hospice care services without interruption.
To reduce disruption for patients during the transition period, transfers to the Irene Thomas Hospice have been temporarily paused, and any person seeking hospice care between Jan. 11 and Feb. 24 will be admitted to another hospice.
“It is important for people at the end of their lives to have peace, comfort and choice related to their own health. We are committed to providing a public health system that includes a full range of health-care options for people in our communities, including those in hospice settings,” the statement reads.
Despite some media reports of patients being moved early, Fraser Health told Black Press Media Saturday (Jan. 16) that “At the moment, Fraser Health is just going to stick with what’s in the information bulletin so residents currently residing at Irene Thomas hospice will continue to stay at the facility and receive the care they need.”
Friday’s statement comes a week after the DHS board sent layoff notices to all clinical staff at the hospice.
The board said in a news release Jan. 8 that it deeply regrets “being compelled” to take the action due to Fraser Health cancelling its contract over its refusal to comply with a provincial policy requiring hospices to provide MAiD.
On Friday, Fraser Health said it is working with the appropriate unions to ensure all unionized hospice staff who received layoff notices from the society will have employment opportunities within Fraser Health should they want them.
The health authority also said in order to maintain long-term care capacity in Delta, it is acquiring 59 additional long-term care beds at Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre, a long-term care facility in East Delta.
The facility is currently the site of a COVID-19 outbreak, which has had a cumulative total of 65 cases — 26 residents and 39 staff — since the current outbreak began on Nov. 1. So far seven residents have died.
— with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press Media and Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press