Fraser Health now says that patients at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta will have to transfer to other facilities in the region as the health authority gets set to assume control of the property.
The health authority made the announcement Saturday afternoon (Feb. 6), saying it could not reach an agreement with the Delta Hospice Society (DHS) for providing a “seamless transition.”
In February of last year, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the Fraser Health Authority had given the DHS a year’s notice that it would terminate its contract with the society after the board voted not to provide medical assistance in dying at the Ladner facility.
Located on Fraser Health property adjacent to Delta Hospital, the facility is rented to the society for $1 a year, and the health authority provides the hospice with $1.5 million in annual funding, which covers 94 per cent of the 10-bed centre’s operating costs.
Last month, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Fraser Health board chair Jim Sinclair and Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee issued a joint statement saying that, under the terms of its agreement with the society, Fraser Health would serve the society 30 days’ notice to vacate the premises on Feb. 25, one day after the agreement expires.
The notice to vacate will apply to both the Irene Thomas Hospice and the Harold & Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, as both buildings are on the same property and under the same lease.
According to a timeline of events layed out in Saturday’s statement, the Delta Hospice Society asked Fraser Health on Jan. 19 to begin transferring clinical operations of the Irene Thomas Hospice so that it would not be necessary to disrupt the care of of existing patients by transferring them to another facility.
While Fraser Health sought further clarification from the society, the DHS board published a public notice on Jan. 21 indicating that it would vacate the hospice by the required date and that it sought to transition operation of the hospice to Fraser Health in the meantime.
On Jan. 26, Fraser Health presented a the society with a formal letter setting out the arrangements it proposed for an early termination of the society’s service agreement and lease in order to allow the transition of services, patients and staff to Fraser Health.
A week later, on Feb. 2, the society responded to Fraser Health’s letter.
“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,” Fraser Health said in its Feb. 6 statement.
“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 Feb. 24 and then transfer to another facility.”
Despite not coming to terms on a transition plan, Fraser Health said the society has agreed to vacate the Irene Thomas Hospice.
The health authority expects to gain possession of the buildings after the lease is terminated and intends to continue to provide hospice beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice, therefore is hitting pause on its plan to open 10 hospice beds at the nearby Mountain View Manor long-term care facility.
A little over an hour after Saturday’s statement regarding the Delta hospice, Fraser Health declared an outbreak at Mountain View Manor after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
Meantime, the health authority said it is working with the appropriate unions to ensure all unionized hospice staff who received layoff notices from the DHS in early January will have employment opportunities within Fraser Health if they want them.
The health authority said it will also consider “in the near future” how the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care “supports the broader community.”
In a letter released Feb. 1, Delta Mayor George Harvie asked for the opportunity to discuss the City of Delta becoming the lease holder of the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care building, which the city would subsequently sublease to the society — with the caveat that it first have a new board in place.
In his letter, Harvie said the arrangement would “ensure harmonization of service delivery by the hospice consistent with Fraser Health Authority requirements and ensure that this asset remains whole to deliver vital services to the community.
“In addition to continuity of services, it is our goal to retain the existing staff and volunteers of the supportive care centre that have made the hospice a centre of excellence in this community, to the greatest possible extent,” Harvie wrote.
On Saturday, Fraser Health said it looks forward to engaging in a discussion with the City of Delta about “possible options related to the future of this facility.”