With 2020 finally behind us, hope is on the horizon for 2021. Together, we hope that our front-line workers and most vulnerable seniors are vaccinated in a timely manner, and we hope to take comfort in knowing that each passing day is one step closer to the COVID-19 pandemic coming to an end.
On a personal note, as I reflect on the ups and downs of 2020, I am humbled to have been given the opportunity to continue serving our wonderful community for the next four years. As your MLA in Victoria, I resume the important role of keeping the government to account by asking the tough questions about decisions that have direct consequences for our community.
Here at home, I have continued to work with community members and my colleagues in Victoria on the future of the Irene Thomas Hospice. In the time since the Ministry of Health announced the termination of the service agreement between Fraser Health and the Society, the Hospice Society’s board, led by former People’s Party of Canada candidate Angelina Ireland, has lost successive court battles regarding their shameful efforts to suppress membership applications from community members, including hospice staff, volunteers, and donors. As a result of court rulings, the society was ordered to accept memberships from anyone in our community who would like to become a member.
Late last year, I began hearing from the hospice’s dedicated nursing staff, many of whom have devoted their careers to providing quality care to their patients, who expressed legitimate concern for their employment. Earlier this month, the Hospice’s board issued termination notices to every staff member effective February 25th. As it turns out, Fraser Health had reached out to the Society on a number of occasions to facilitate a smooth transition and ensure hospice staff and patients remained in place. Inexplicably, the Society did not respond to these requests.
Immediately upon the issuance of termination notices, I made inquiries with Minister Adrian Dix and senior officials with the Ministry of Health and Fraser Health. I asked for clarification on four key questions: How the transition would roll out? Who would provide oversight? What would happen to the dedicated Hospice staff? How will disruptions to patient care be mitigated?
After some delay, I received replies from the Ministry of Health and spoke a few days later over the phone with Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health. Due to the Hospice board’s unwillingness to cooperate with the transition, Fraser Health has made arrangements for the ten beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice to be temporarily re-allocated to Mountain View Manor in Ladner, with an additional 59 care beds being purchased at Delta View Habilitation Centre. We also learned that the Hospice will not be accepting new patients during this transition phase and that all Hospice staff will be guaranteed employment within Fraser Health Authority. Fraser Health is hopeful this will only be a short-term solution and that the Irene Thomas Hospice will begin accepting new patients again very soon.
Let’s be clear –the disruptions to patient care and staff layoffs at the Delta Hospice are a direct result of the deliberate negligence of the Delta Hospice board of directors. I am once again renewing my call for the president and her board of directors to do the right thing and resign immediately. The best thing for our community and for the Hospice is to remove their damaging influence and begin to work cooperatively with Fraser Health on the upcoming transition and restructuring.
As your MLA for Delta South, my top priority is ensuring patients at the Irene Thomas Hospice continue to receive the highest quality of care possible, and that the hard-working staff are looked after. I will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and Fraser Health representatives to ensure both patients and staff are well-equipped to deal with potential challenges that may arise