B.C. hospice looking at legal and other options after funding cut by province

VANCOUVER — A hospice society in British Columbia says it is outraged by the province's decision to stop its funding because it refuses to provide medically assisted death.

Angelina Ireland, president of Delta Hospice, said the funding was abruptly cancelled without consultation between the care facility, Fraser Health and the Health Ministry.

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"So, this is like a decree sent out against our society," she said in an interview Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Fraser Health will stop paying $1.5 million in annual funding to the Delta Hospice Society next year after giving the organization one year's notice to end its service agreement without cause.

Ireland said if the government wants to implement medical help in dying then it should create facilities for people who want the procedure.

The government should not be allowed to put medically assisted death "on the backs" of facilities that provide hospice and palliative care services, she said.

"This is like going to a pizza place and telling them you better make me some Chinese food," Ireland said.

"That's not what they do. You need to go to a Chinese restaurant and ask them to make you Chinese food."

Over the past three years, three people have asked for medically assisted death at the hospice, she said.

"All I can say is they were transferred out to their preferred location — two went home and one went next door to the Delta Hospital, one minute away," she said.

"We facilitate a transfer as is the practice in a hospice and palliative care facility. We have no training to provide euthanasia."

Delta Hospice will look at its legal and other options to continue serving patients and families, Ireland said.

In announcing the decision to cut off funding to the Delta Hospice Society, Dix said people have the right to receive medical assistance in dying where they live and that decision must rest with the patient alone.

B.C. developed its policy after the federal government made it legal in 2016 for patients to get medical assistance in dying under certain circumstances. The provincial policy requires a hospice to allow patients to access medical assistance in dying if its beds are more than 50 per cent publicly funded.

The contract with the hospice society covers 94 per cent of the cost to operate 10 beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, near Vancouver.

Ireland said palliative care beds in the province are becoming scarce.

"We are gravely concerned for the future of hospice and palliative care in British Columbia," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26. 2020.

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