It’s official: The Delta Hospice Society has until late March to vacate the Irene Thomas Hospice and neighbouring Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care.
On Thursday (Feb. 25), Fraser Health served the society a notice of breach of lease, as the DHS is no longer using the buildings and surrounding lands for publicly funded health care services following the expiry of its service agreement with the health authority at midnight on Feb. 24.
Last year, Fraser Health gave the DHS 365-days’ notice that it would terminate the service agreement due to the society’s refusal to allow medical assistance in dying at the Irene Thomas Hospice.
In a press release Friday afternoon (Feb. 26), Fraser Health said it expects to terminate the society’s lease and take exclusive possession of the lands and buildings effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 29.
“We are hoping to take possession of the lands and buildings prior to March 29 if the Delta Hospice Society is agreeable,” Fraser Health said in statement.
“We are continuing our planning process to ensure we can resume providing hospice beds at Irene Thomas Hospice as soon as possible. We expect to be able to reopen hospice beds at the site within two weeks after the lease is terminated.”
Fraser Health says it remains committed to ensuring hospice beds are available in the community and will have more to share regarding the timeline to reopen the Irene Thomas Hospice closer to March 29.
Earlier this month, Fraser Health announced that patients at the hospice would have to transfer to other facilities in the region as it could not reach an agreement with the Delta Hospice Society for providing a “seamless transition.”
“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 on Feb. 6.
“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 had agreed to vacate the Irene Thomas Hospice and the health authority said it expected to gain possession of the buildings after the lease is terminated.
As it intends to continue to provide hospice beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice, Fraser Health said it is hitting pause on its plan to open 10 hospice beds at the nearby Mountain View Manor long-term care facility.
The Delta Hospice Society, meanwhile, called the health authority’s actions “punitive and unjust,” accusing Fraser Health of moving to seize the society’s assets “without any dialogue.”
In a statement to media Feb. 7, the Delta Hospice Society said it had not signed any agreement with Fraser Health because the authority insisted on taking over both the hospice and the supportive care centre.
The society said that while it agreed to co-operate in transitioning the hospice to Fraser Health, it refused to vacate the centre, calling it a community hub that Fraser Health neither funds nor operates.
The society said it asked Fraser Health for a new lease covering just the centre, which it said was “quickly rejected without explanation.” It also contended that senior management at Fraser Health has had no discussion with DHS senior management since the spring of 2018.
“Fraser Health has maneuvered the society, without cause and against its will, to seize much of the society’s assets and its ability to serve the community without any dialogue,” the society said in its statement.
“The society has served the community for 30 years, contributed over $30 million to the Fraser Health Palliative Care Program in Delta, and provided exemplary care for patients and families in the hospice and the supportive care centre.
“These actions by Fraser Health are punitive and unjust. While Fraser Health claims it is acting in the best interest of patient care, this is highly questionable.”
Meanwhile, Fraser Health said it will also consider “in the near future” how the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care “supports the broader community,” including discussing with the City of Delta its proposal to take over the centre’s lease.
In a letter to Fraser Health released Feb. 1, Mayor George Harvie proposed the City of Delta lease the centre and then sublease it to the society — with the caveat that DHS 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.”
The DHS criticized Fraser Health’s “audacity” in saying it would discuss leasing the centre to the city while refusing to entertain DHS’s proposal.