Health minister warns of 'consequences' for Delta Hospice

The Delta Hospice Society could be facing “consequences” over not providing medically assisted deaths, according to the province's health minister.

During a media briefing, Adrian Dix yesterday commented on the new society board’s decision to not allow Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner.

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Noting medically assisted deaths have been legal in Canada since 2016, Dix, saying the procedure is available under the strictest of conditions and is a matter of personal choice, pointed out “almost all” of Delta Hospice's costs are paid for by Fraser Health and by the general public.

Acknowledging the good work of the non-profit organization, and noting a survey conducted by Delta Hospice showed the community overwhelmingly supported MAiD, he said the province has been in contact with the society.

“So we'd taken the following steps. We've been in touch with Delta Hospice. We've asked them, I believe, by December, by the end of this week, to provide their plan to fulfill their contract with their Fraser Health Authority - and it's our expectation that they will - and their plan to do so. We'll hear from them. Try and be as respectful as possible in these processes. And should they not want to fulfill their contract with Fraser Health, there may well be consequences for that. But I'm hopeful that they would do that,” he said.

Dix said his first obligation is to the patients, adding, “Delta Hospice can decide it doesn't want to continue to receive support from the Fraser Health Authority in its mission. They can choose to do that. But you can absolutely have it your way. But, of course, you can't have it both ways.”

A Fraser Health spokesperson last week told the Optimist that health region representatives met with the leadership from hospice to discuss concerns the region has regarding the society’s compliance of their contract.

"Fraser Health subsequently provided them with formal notice of the concerns,” the spokesperson stated.

“We took a phased approach to the implementation of this service and, in December 2017, proceeded with the final phase of implementation in hospices and palliative care settings. We have been working closely with the Delta Hospice Society since to support them in implementing this service.”

The region noted it fully supports a patient’s right to receive medical assistance in dying wherever they may be, including in a hospice setting.

“We understand this is a difficult and emotional issue for some people, but it is important to consider the patient in everything we do,” FHA added.

The region provides about $1.3 million in annual funding to the hospice society, which accounts for roughly half of the operating budget.

A heated annual general meeting at Genesis Theatre a couple of weeks ago saw the election of several new board members, most opposed to MAiD.

In a 5-3 vote a couple of days later, the new board reversed a vote taken a week prior by the previous board to allow MAiD, putting the society on a collision course with Fraser Health.

In a letter to staff, volunteers and members, president Angelina Ireland said the motion was based on two independent legal opinions that MAiD is not compatible with the purposes of Delta Hospice Society as stated in its constitution.

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