B.C. health authority evicts Delta Hospice Society over assisted-suicide refusal

03 March 2021

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

The Fraser Health Authority has given the Delta Hospice Society 30 days’ notice to vacate the Irene Thomas Hospice in South Delta, B.C.

That gives the society until March 29 to leave the hospice and neighbouring supportive care centre.

“On Feb. 25, in accordance with the lease between Fraser Health and the Delta Hospice Society, we issued a notice of breach of lease to the Society, as the society is no longer using the Irene Thomas Hospice site, the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care site and surrounding lands for publicly funded health-care services,” said Fraser Health Authority in a Feb. 25 news release.

“As a result, Fraser Health expects to terminate the lease and will take exclusive possession of the lands and buildings with effect from 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 29, 2021. We are hoping to take possession of the lands and buildings prior to March 29 if the Delta Hospice Society is agreeable.”

The society issued layoff notices to clinical staff effective Feb. 25 to notify them that the society will no longer be their employer.

The Fraser Health Authority terminated its contract with the society in February 2020, giving one year’s notice for the society to move out and relinquish the two facilities after the society refused to allow doctor-assisted death on site.

There were seven patients in the hospice when new admissions were stopped Jan. 14, when Fraser Health staff entered the premises without advising hospice personnel and began handing out eviction notices to palliative patients, said society president Angelina Ireland.

“We were not aware they were coming and it was certainly unnecessary to upset our patients as many of them would pass away before the end of the service agreement,” she said.

The B.C. Catholic has learned five of the seven patients at Delta Hospice have died. The remaining two were transferred to Melville Hospice at Peace Arch Hospital Lodge in late February.

In response to a B.C. Catholic inquiry Feb. 10, Fraser Health spokesperson Dixon Tam said patients were given “the option to transfer now to a facility of their choice, or remain at the Irene Thomas Hospice until closer to Feb. 24 and then transfer to another facility.”

It’s not clear why palliative patients were moved. In a release Feb. 6, Fraser Health said “we intend to continue providing hospice beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice upon gaining possession of the buildings.”

According to Tam, Fraser Health is working “to ensure all unionized hospice staff who received layoff notices from the society will have employment opportunities within Fraser Health if they want them.”

The Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, which for several years has been running day programs including grief counselling and support for people facing cancer or other difficult diagnoses.

Ireland said the supportive care centre and its activities has been entirely funded without government money, and services are provided to the public for free. She feels “violated” that Fraser Health plans to take it over, too.

“These are essential services as far as I’m concerned. … Why don’t we have a new lease for this supportive care building?” she asked.

She added the centre is not relevant to the assisted suicide controversy, as it is not a hospice and has no patient beds.

Its future is apparently being discussed by Fraser Health and the City of Delta, but no details have been provided.

The society built the hospice and care centre for about $8.5 million, and the centre was completed without government help, said Ireland.

The society’s agreement with Fraser Health included $1.5 million per year in government funding for hospice beds, half its budget. The society covered building repairs and maintenance, social workers and supportive care centre activities, said Ireland.

She said she refused Fraser Health’s transition proposal in January because it involved handing over millions of dollars of society assets.

Ireland said she will not let the loss of the hospice stop the Delta Hospice Society from continuing to support end-of-life care for people who don’t want assisted suicide provided — even if it takes time for a course of action to be determined.

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