Government ends Delta Hospice Society service agreement

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Victoria: Fraser Health will stop funding the Delta Hospice Society (DHS) on Feb. 25, 2021, providing the required 365-days notice to end their service agreement without cause.

The termination follows the DHS board’s refusal to comply with the provincial medical assistance in dying (MAiD) policy.

The contract had provided DHS approximately $1.5 million annually. This covered 94% of the society’s costs to operate 10 beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice – a facility on land Fraser Health owns. Fraser Health will use the next year to ensure Delta residents continue to have access to those beds.

“We have made every effort to support the board to come into compliance and they have been clear that they have no intention to,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “We are taking this action reluctantly, and when the role of the Delta Hospice Society concludes, patients in publicly funded hospice care will again be able to fully access their medical rights.”

In 2016, the federal government passed legislation making it legal for Canadians who meet very specific criteria to have a medical professional assist them with their death. In response to that legislation, B.C. developed a policy that requires a hospice to allow patients to access MAiD in their facility, if their beds are more than 50% publicly funded.

“I strongly support hospice care and we have made important investments to expand it across the province,” Dix added. “We will ensure hospice care services remain in Delta. To do that, we could restore the existing Irene Thomas Hospice site to public management. Given the significant financial contributions Delta community members made to build the facility, this would be the most desirable option. Alternatively, we could pursue another Delta site. In either scenario, the 10 hospice beds represented by the existing facility will stay in Delta.

“Putting the patient first is what matters most. Patients make decisions about medical services in consultation with their doctor and their family. No organization can influence this decision or impose it. I respect anyone’s right to disagree, and no one has ever required hospice staff to deliver medical assistance in dying, but they must allow eligible residents who want the service to access it.”

In the last three years, more than 3,000 British Columbians made the choice to have medical assistance in dying – the majority of those choosing to do so at home, often a long-term care facility or a hospice.