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Delta Hospice Society board slams Fraser Health as 'punitive and unjust'

DHS board president Angelina Ireland contends her the society agreed to cooperate in transitioning the hospice, but it never agreed to vacate the supportive care centre.
angelina ireland delta hospice  - file shot
DHA board president Angelina Ireland says the society operates the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, noting Fraser Health never operated or funded any of the services there.

As the clock ticks on the Delta Hospice Society’s role in providing palliative care beds in the community, board president Angelina Ireland is firing back at a recent news release by Fraser Health.

In a statement issued Monday, Ireland disputes the health region’s contention the society was unwilling to come to terms, saying the society has done all it can to pass the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice seamlessly to the health region.

She also noted the FHA attempted to include the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care in a last-minute attempt to grab the asset as part of an agreement, adding the supportive care centre was never funded by government.

“What does the Supportive Care Centre have to do with FH insistence that MAiD be performed at our Hospice? Unless FH plans on committing MAiD in the Centre too?” she asked.

On Saturday, the health authority issued a statement saying it is altering its upcoming plan for Delta hospice beds, citing a lack of cooperation from the Hospice Society's current board.

The FHA explained why it's pausing the plan to move hospice beds to the nearby Mountain View Manor care home.

“Though it is unfortunate the Delta Hospice Society is unwilling to agree to a seamless transition to continue to provide hospice services, they have agreed to vacate the Irene Thomas Hospice. After termination of the lease, Fraser Health expects to gain possession of the Hospice buildings, and we are planning accordingly. For this reason, as we intend to continue providing hospice beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice upon gaining possession of the buildings, we will pause on our plan to open hospice beds at Mountain View Manor,” the statement reads.

The FHA stated that on Jan. 19, 2021, the society asked Fraser Health to begin transferring the clinical operations of the Irene Thomas Hospice so that transfers of existing patients to an alternative facility would not be necessary and care at the location would not be disrupted.

Then on Jan. 26, according to the health region, it presented a formal letter to the society setting out the arrangements proposed by Fraser Health for an early termination of the service agreement and lease to allow the transition of services to Fraser Health, including patients and staff.

On Feb. 2, the society responded.

“Regrettably, they were unwilling to agree to the terms we presented to ensure a safe and orderly transition and to continue to provide hospice services onsite,” the FHA stated. “In the absence of agreement by the Delta Hospice Society, we must put our patients first and provide them with the option to transfer now to a facility of their choice, or remain at the Irene Thomas Hospice until closer to February 24 and then transfer to another facility.”

However, the society’s board disputes Fraser Health’s contention, adding that for a smooth transition, under the agreement, the health region could have provided a transition period from Feb. 25 to Aug. 25, 2021 to allow for no disruption of patient care or staffing.

“As the Society began negotiations, Fraser Health publicly threatened to use Mountain View Manor, a long-term care facility at Delta Hospital, for five hospice beds immediately and five more hospice beds in April 2021.

They paused all admissions to the Irene Thomas Hospice, resulting in patients being transferred out of Delta to die. Fraser Health staff spoke brazenly to patients on Jan. 14, 2021, informing them they could move out then, but would have to move to another location by Feb. 24, 2021.

“On Jan. 21, the Society Board was so concerned about pausing of patient admissions and plans to use long term care beds for hospice patients, it agreed to change the ownership and operations of the Hospice to Fraser Health immediately,” the board explained. “The Society gave working notice of termination to its hospice employees with the expectation Fraser Health would hire the same staff to operate the Hospice. Fraser Health now reports employees will be offered employment somewhere within the Fraser Health Authority territory.

“While the Society agreed to cooperate in transitioning the Hospice, it did not agree to vacate the Centre that is its community hub, serving people living at home, in care facilities and the Hospice. The Society made a request to Fraser Health for a new Land Lease for the Centre, which was quickly rejected without explanation.”

To date, no document has been signed by the society because Fraser Health insists on seizing both the hospice and the supportive care centre, the board states, adding Fraser Health’s senior management has had no discussion with the society’s senior management since the spring of 2018.

“Fraser Health has maneuvered the Society, without cause and against its will, to seize much of the Society’s assets and its ability to serve the community without any dialogue. Fraser Health then has the audacity to say it will hold discussions with the City of Delta about the future of the Centre when it will not entertain an option for the Society,” the board states. “The Society has served the community for 30 years, contributed over $30 million to the Fraser Health Palliative Care Program in Delta, and provided exemplary care for patients and families in the Hospice and the Supportive Care Centre.

“These actions by Fraser Health are punitive and unjust. While Fraser Health claims it is acting in the best interest of patient care, this is highly questionable.”

The current board, which took control of the society after a heated annual general meeting in late 2019, is opposed to providing the legal procedure medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at the Irene Thomas Hospice, reversing a decision by the previous board to allow MAiD.

Health Minister Adrian Dix last February announced that the province had given the leadership of Delta Hospice 365 days’ notice that the society will no longer receive funding or be permitted to provide hospice palliative care.

Dix said the province's contract had provided DHS approximately $1.5 million annually, covering 94 per cent of the society’s costs to operate 10 beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice.