Hospice, auxiliary roles at private facility uncertain

Long-Term Care

It’s still not clear how the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society and the Sunshine Coast Health Care Auxiliary will fit in under Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) plan for the future of long-term care in the area.

When the closure of Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge was first announced in June, officials with VCH said two hospice beds would be included at the privately owned Silverstone Care Centre to replace the two currently in Shorncliffe, and that two more would be added.

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The news was welcomed by the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society, which has been trying to find a way to increase the number of hospice beds on the Coast for several years.

But the hospice society now says the private owner/operator model for Silverstone could be a roadblock.

In a “President’s Bulletin” for society members, Denis Fafard explained the problem.  “VCH had expected the SCHS [Sunshine Coast Hospice Society] would work with the community to raise a large part of the capital funds needed to pay for the building of this hospice wing. The board identified a number of concerns about this model, including the issues raised strongly in recent community meetings,” Fafard said.

“But chief among our concerns, and clearly a barrier to our expected role, was that Canada Revenue Agency strictly regulates funds flowing from a charity to a for-profit corporation.” 

That’s also the stumbling block facing the Sunshine Coast Health Care Auxiliary.

President Carole Murray first raised the issue at a June 29 town hall hosted by MLA Nicholas Simons, where she said, “The auxiliary will not be following residents to the new Silverstone Care Centre. A not-for-profit organization, such as our auxiliary, cannot go and give their services to a for-profit organization.”

“Our members are devastated,” Murray told Coast Reporter recently. “We have a very vested interest in what’s being proposed .… Our members are wanting to have a voice on this.” Murray was careful to point out, however, that the health care auxiliary itself can’t take a position for or against the plan.

The auxiliary has had a significant positive impact on the quality of life for residents of Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge. In 2015 alone, 96 auxiliary members put in around 1,050 volunteer hours. And, Murray said, the auxiliary estimates it’s donated more than $250,000 in equipment for use at the facilities over the past five years, and spent more than $83,000 to provide residents with hair and nail care, parties, garden and music therapy programs, visiting, and other help and services.

Murray said she expects to meet with VCH Sunshine Coast director Lauren Tindall soon to see if there’s a way to keep the auxiliary involved in the proposed new facility while staying within the rules laid down for charitable groups.

VCH media relations officer Anna Marie D’Angelo said the health authority is working with the hospice society as well.

“Vancouver Coastal Health is continuing to work through this with both groups and we hope to be able to find a solution to address their concerns and the potential legal hurdles that exist. We value the work of the auxiliary and society and look forward to an ongoing relationship with them to improve the health of the community.”

Murray said the auxiliary has already heard from VCH that it may be possible to move at least some of the equipment donated by the auxiliary to the new facility, or put it to use at Sechelt Hospital, but it’s not certain whether the auxiliary will donate any new equipment for Shorncliffe and Totem in the next two years.

But there’s no doubt about the other work the auxiliary does at the facilities. “Our members are willing to support all the services until we wave the last resident goodbye,” Murray said. “They’re not going to stop all this good stuff we’ve been doing for years and years.”

The Hospice Society, meanwhile, “is still committed to assisting with increasing the number of hospice beds to better reflect community needs and priorities,” Fafard said in his bulletin. “The board passed a motion at our Sept. 14 board meeting authorizing the steering committee to explore any and all other options available to us for the delivery of quality hospice palliative care in our community.”

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