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Delta hospice at centre of MAiD fight to reopen Thursday

Fraser Health will reopen all 10 beds at the facility on April 15
Fraser Health staff prepare for the reopening of Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta on April 15, 2021. (Fraser Health photo)

The Irene Thomas Hospice will reopen to patients on Thursday (April 15), two and a half weeks after Fraser Health took possession of the Delta facility.

The health authority took possession of the property adjacent to Delta Hospital — which includes the neighbouring Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care — on March 29 after ending the service agreement and lease with the Delta Hospice Society due to the board’s refusal to allow medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at the hospice.

READ MORE: Fraser Health takes over Delta hospice at centre of MAiD controversy (March 31, 2021)

In a press release Wednesday afternoon, Fraser Health said it is opening all 10 beds at the facility to provide hospice care.

“People have the right to access hospice services if and when they need them, which is why we are so committed to ensuring these services remain available in Delta and in all communities across our province,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said in the release.

“The reopening of the Irene Thomas Hospice is an important day for the community of Delta, and I am so pleased that these services will be available now and for many years to come.”

The health authority says that since taking possession of the site last month, it has worked quickly to make needed upgrades and repairs to the building to offer the right environment and ensure appropriate staffing is in place to care for patients.

“The opening of the Irene Thomas Hospice tomorrow marks a significant milestone for the community of Delta, and specifically for people seeking access to these important services,” Fraser Health board chair Jim Sinclair said in a press release.

“We remain committed to putting our patients and their families first, and to ensuring that if and when the time comes that a person needs access to end-of-life care, they can do so in a facility that is tailored to meet their needs. Thank you to all the people in the community and city council for their support through this transition.”

The hospice will support patients and their families with access to 24-hour end-of-life care in a home-like environment, including services designed to provide care and comfort. In addition to the palliative physician and nursing support on-site, the hospice will also provide patients with access to social workers and pharmacy services.

People seeking a referral to the Irene Thomas Hospice for end-of-life care can do so by calling the Home Health Service Line at 1-855-412-2121 for an assessment from the Hospice Palliative Care Consultation Team.

Wednesday’s announcement did not provide an update regarding the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care or the City of Delta’s proposal to take over the facility’s lease.

In a letter to Fraser Health released Feb. 1, Mayor George Harvie proposed the City of Delta lease the centre and then sublease it to the Delta Hospice Society — with the caveat that it first have a new board in place.

In his letter, Harvie said the arrangement would “ensure harmonization of service delivery by the hospice consistent with Fraser Health Authority requirements and ensure that this asset remains whole to deliver vital services to the community.”

“In addition to continuity of services, it is our goal to retain the existing staff and volunteers of the supportive care centre that have made the hospice a centre of excellence in this community, to the greatest possible extent,” Harvie wrote.

READ MORE: City aims to take over lease from Delta Hospice Society (Feb. 1, 2021)

According to the Delta Hospice Society’s website, the Centre for Supportive Care provides a co-ordinated source of information, referral, education and support to enhance care to individuals and family in the community, as well as patients and families of the Irene Thomas Hospice. Information, support services, counselling and equipment loans are provided free of charge.

In a press release issued Feb. 6, Fraser Health said it would consider “in the near future” how the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care “supports the broader community,” including discussing with the City of Delta its proposal to take over the centre’s lease.

In other news, the Supreme Court of Canada recently dismissed an application by the Delta Hospice Society (DHS) board to appeal a B.C. Appeal Court judgment upholding a lower court ruling compelling the society to admit hundreds of prospective members whose applications were allegedly blocked over their support of allowing MAiD at the Irene Thomas Hospice.

READ MORE: Court affirms order Delta Hospice Society accept memberships rejected in medically assisted dying controversy (Nov. 13, 2020)

Take Back Delta Hospice spokesperson and former DHS board chair Chris Pettypiece — who was part the group suing the society to compel the board to accept the blocked memberships, among other complaints — said in a press release that it’s gratifying to see the current board of directors held to account for their “improper conduct.”

“What an ordeal it has been to have to fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada so that local residents who wish to become members of the society are treated fairly,” he said. “It is staggering to think of the expense the current board of directors have incurred on behalf of the society and the negative impact on resources that should have gone to patient care and support.”

Pettypiece said Take Back Delta Hospice will continue to advocate for people to become members of the society in order to make sure the current board is replaced by “people who will prioritize services for patients and loved ones and who will honour their responsibilities to the members and the community they serve.”

“Under the leadership of [board president] Angelina Ireland, this current board of directors has done immense damage to the Delta Hospice Society. They have lost $1.5 million dollars in annual funding, they have been evicted from both the Irene Thomas Hospice and Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, they have terminated most staff and volunteers and have lost their protected property tax status with the City of Delta,” he said.

“Take Back Delta Hospice again calls upon this board of directors to resign immediately. They will never regain the trust of the membership or the community.”

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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