Delta Hospice Society head Angelina Ireland walks through the hospice the society built 10 years ago. The society has been evicted from the premises. Photo by Agnieszka Ruck

B.C. hospice society facing uncertain future

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • March 31, 2021

DELTA, B.C. -- The Delta Hospice Society is crowdfunding to raise money for a potential court challenge after it was evicted from the state-of-the-art facilities it built on land owned by the local health authority.

The society has lost access to its Irene Thomas Hospice and the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, built by the society for about $8.5 million on land leased from the Fraser Health Authority. The society was evicted for refusing to allow medical assistance in dying at the hospice.

President Angelina Ireland said the society is now contemplating court action and is in consultation with lawyers and preparing a crowdfunding page to help raise funds for a potential legal fight.

“At this point we have no other option than to seek justice,” said Ireland. “They prematurely cancelled our lease, and because you can’t pick up your buildings and take them somewhere,” the society is more or less starting from the drawing board. There were 25 years left on the lease.

The Delta Hospice Society built the facilities 10 years ago, sinking about $8.5 million into the buildings on land leased from the health authority.

“Now we have nothing. Now we have to create ourselves again,” said Ireland.

Ireland took The B.C. Catholic on a tour of the state-of-the-art facilities before the society was evicted.

“It was because of the vision, the creativity, the courage of the Delta Hospice Society” that funds to build both centres were raised and programs were launched “to create the kinds of miracles that happen here,” said Ireland.

The 10-bed hospice was designed for comfort, with community dining, a spiritual room, spa room and places for family members to visit and rest. Over the years it has cared for 1,711 patients, each represented by a paper butterfly in a bright arrangement on a wall in a music therapy room.

The supportive care centre runs grief counselling, music therapy, art therapy, yoga and many other programs for free for the community. At last count it had 96 clients in its programs, and that was after a dramatic decrease due to pandemic-related regulations on physical distancing.

“We figure we put $35 million into the community of Delta and the public health care system, plus 750,000 volunteer hours” in the last 10 years, Ireland said.

Now, due to the battle with the Fraser Health Authority about whether assisted suicide is part of hospice care (the society and its founder Nancy Macey maintain that it is not), the lease has been terminated, the society is moving out and the health authority takes control of the buildings.

The society still runs and owns a charity thrift store in Tsawwassen, B.C., which is a main source of funding for its bereavement programs. Several months ago the City of Delta took away the thrift shop’s tax exemption, which meant a loss of $25,000 per year for the society in taxes.

The society has secured an interim location in South Delta where it hopes to be able to run its therapy programs, “but we’ll never have a 7,500-square-foot facility again.”

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