Delta’s mayor and council are urging the provincial government and Fraser Health Authority to “take all necessary steps” to maintain services at the Irene Thomas Hospice after clinical staff at the facility were served with layoff notices by the Delta Hospice Society board last week.
The layoffs come as the society nears the end of its service contract and lease with Fraser Health due to the board’s refusal to offer medical assistance in dying at the 10-bed facility. The health authority announced last year it would cancel the agreement and lease as of Feb. 25, 2021, pulling $1.5 million in annual funding that had covered most of the hospice’s operating costs.
At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor George Harvie read a letter unanimously endorsed by Delta council to Health Minister Adrian Dix and Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee, urging the province and health authority “to exercise all rights afforded to them under the lease or otherwise to continue high quality palliative and hospice care at this important Delta facility.”
In the letter, Harvie and council “strongly request” that, should the current Delta Hospice Society board cause a disruption in service, the ministry provide interim hospice beds in provincial health-care facilities located in Delta, in order to allow Delta residents to continue to access critical services in their own community.
“It is incredibly unfortunate that the current Delta Hospice Society Board is determined to sabotage opportunities for Delta residents to have hospice services in their community. It is vital that steps be taken to ensure that special interest groups do not have the ability to remove beds from our community hospice facility ever again. As such, our community leaders and Delta elected officials are committed to working with your staff on alternatives to the current administrative model.”
In his letter, Harvie also asks Fraser Health to make all efforts possible to rehire hospice staff laid off by the current board, and implores the province and health authority to “take all steps possible to preserve for the benefit of Delta residents all assets and equipment acquired through incredible local fundraising efforts and hundreds of personal donations over many years.”
A press release accompanying the letter states the City of Delta’s position and approach to this issue has been consistent over the past year, adding council has been unanimous in its support for the city’s efforts to ensure the long-term continuity of vital palliative and hospice care in the community.
“I am committed to working with the minister of health and the Fraser Health Authority to ensure Delta residents have fair and equal access to palliative and hospice care in our community,” Harvie said in a press release.
“We are also encouraging Delta residents to continue their effective involvement in this important issue by becoming members of the Hospice Society and by sharing their concerns with the minister of health.”
— with files from Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press