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Patients must transfer as health authority takes over B.C. hospice

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Fraser Health says patients at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, B.C., will have to transfer as the health authority prepares to take over from operators who refused to provide medical assistance in dying.

It says in a statement the Delta Hospice Society had asked the health authority last month to begin the transition of clinical operations for the 10-bed hospice so patients would not have to move elsewhere.

Read more: B.C. hospice refusing to provide medically assisted dying must vacate premises

Fraser Health says it sent a letter to the hospice society on Jan. 26 outlining proposed arrangements and last Tuesday the society responded indicating its unwillingness to agree to the terms.

The health authority says its plan had aimed to “ensure a safe and orderly transition and to continue to provide hospice services onsite.”

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The hospice society says it agreed to seamlessly transition operations of the hospice, but that it does not agree with the health authority’s plan to take over operations of the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, which is on the same land lease.

Read more: Delta hospice lays off staff amid fight over medical assistance in dying

The society says the centre provides specialized care for people living with cancer and other serious illnesses, as well as those mourning a sudden death — services it claims the health authority is not prepared to offer.

Fraser Health says hospice patients may decide to transfer to a facility of their choice now or wait until closer to Feb. 24.

That’s when the service agreement with the hospice society is set to end, and Fraser Health said last month it would serve the society with 30 days’ notice to vacate the property the following day.

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“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,” the health authority says in a statement posted Saturday.

Fraser Health says it intends to continue providing beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice in the future and it will pause plans to open hospice beds at Mountain View Manor, a nearby long-term care home.

Read more: B.C.’s top court rejects latest attempt to block medical assistance in dying at Delta hospice

“The comfort and well-being of our hospice patients and their families remains our priority, and we want to ensure hospice beds remain available in the Delta community.”

Fraser Health says it provided the required 365 days’ notice to end its service agreement with the hospice society that refused to comply with a provincial policy requiring hospices to provide assisted death.

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The agreement included $1.5 million in annual funding covering most of the costs to operate the hospice on health authority-owned land.

Delta Mayor George Harvie has said the city wants to become the lease-holder of the hospice building, while Fraser Health says it’s looking forward to discussions about possible options.

Read more: Hospice’s refusal to provide assisted death causing ‘anxiety:’ B.C. mayor

When layoff notices were issued last month at the hospice, board president Angelina Ireland blamed the provincial government, saying it’s “destroying a sanctuary for dying patients who want the choice to stay in a palliative care facility where (assisted death) is not offered.”

Fraser Health says it’s working to ensure all unionized hospice staff who received layoff notices will have the opportunity to work within the health authority if they choose.

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