Directors get details on proposal for new hospice

Plans for a new Sunshine Coast hospice are underway, but the path forward all depends on a lease. 

The anticipated lease between Trellis Seniors Services and shíshálh Nation would see a long-term care facility built near Stalashen and could make way for a four-bed stand-alone hospice owned by VCH and operated by Trellis in conjunction with the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society.

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In April, the hospice society had floated the idea of creating a four-bed hospice in partnership with VCH, and said they would be planning a capital fundraising campaign to raise at least $2 million to do it.

Directors heard more details about the Hospice Society’s plans and confirmed their support for the project at a July 25 Sunshine Coast Regional Hospital District (SCRHD) meeting.

Based on conversations with VCH, the society has verbally committed to raising the funds to build a new hospice facility that would be attached via a breezeway to the proposed Trellis facility.

Hospice Society secretary Donna Shugar gave a revised estimate of between $4 and $5 million, with the hospital district potentially covering about 40 per cent of the cost. The province does not fund capital costs for hospices. VCH wants 75 per cent of that money upfront before construction could start.

VCH has in turn “made it very clear” that it’s “willing to take on the responsibility of owning and operating the hospice facility, so the Hospice Society and community will not be liable for any additional expenses,” added Hospice Society president Denis Fafard.

These informal agreements are based on the assumption that the Trellis lease will proceed as planned, with one final, but essential detail – that the hospice itself be designated as a Hospital Facility under the Hospital District Act. Without that designation, the SCRHD can’t contribute money towards the project. And to do that, the SCRHD has to commit its support.

“We understand this is a little bit of a cart before the horse scenario, and we do understand that without any detailed costing or design you’re not in the position to make a financial commitment,” Shugar told directors, adding there is “a little bit of time pressure,” since as soon as the lease with Trellis and shíshálh Nation is signed, the hospice is expected to move “full steam ahead.”

Staff will report back in October with information about what’s needed for the Hospital Facility designation and the SCRHD’s capacity to help fund it.

In April, after the Hospice Society had presented its initial plan to the SCRHD, directors made a motion supporting the project “in principle.”

During last Thursday’s presentation, the society members also gave a few more details about the proposed hospice.

“We want this hospice to be a home,” said Hospice Society vice president Jackie Scott, explaining it would accommodate the demographic and cultural diversity on the Sunshine Coast. “It’s not just a facility for the elderly.”

Patient rooms would be large enough to accommodate guests staying overnight, there would be laundry and cooking spaces, gardens, private meeting rooms, “space for contemplation and ceremony,” as well as a nursing station.

The facility would also incorporate an expansion plan for up to eight beds.

That prompted Sechelt director Darnelda Siegers to ask whether the society had considered moving ahead with eight beds to save on construction costs, even if VCH has only committed to cover operating costs of the four beds.

Fafard said VCH is often reluctant to open a facility with vacant rooms but added that “right now, anything is possible.”

Shugar agreed they could explore it. “As a society we feel we could be using six beds today. We turn people away every month, I believe, because there just isn’t the facilities.”

Currently, the Sunshine Coast has two hospice rooms located at the Shorncliffe intermediate care facility in Sechelt, which are accompanied by a family room and garden.

During her presentation, Scott told directors that if the a stand-alone hospice centre cannot be built, then two rooms at the Trellis facility would be reserved for palliative care. Because the facility would be a privately owned and operated, Scott said the Hospice Society “would be unable to provide the support services that we currently provide.”

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