Sylvia Jones receives the HPCO Elephant in the Room figurines from Hospice Palliative Care Ontario advocacy director Jennifer Mossop (behind podium). Next to Jones is HPCO president and CEO Rick Firth and to his left is Jennifer Wilson, vice chair of the HPCO board of directors. Photo courtesy HPCO

Ontario hospices get $147 million shot in the arm

  • June 20, 2023

Ontario hospices are getting more money to fund their day-to-day operations guaranteed over the next three years.

At a conference of Hospice Palliative Care Ontario, Health Minister and Deputy Premier Sylvia Jones announced $147.4 million in palliative care funding, including $66.7 million over the next two years to bolster operating budgets of approximately 75 hospices across the province. The new money represents a 45-per-cent increase to hospice operating budgets, according to a spokesperson for Hospice and Palliative Care Ontario.

The new operating funding will also make it easier to fundraise for new hospices or to expand existing hospices, Hospice Palliative Care Ontario president and CEO Rick Firth told The Catholic Register.

“There are still about 123 beds that are in development and they will get the new (funding) rate,” Firth said. “This operational funding will provide more certainty for projects that are considering a build. Now it’s back up into the range where it’s sustainable from a fundraising perspective. … Now that the funding formula is fixed, there’s a conversation happening (at hospice boards) about what it would look like to expand.”

Firth expects the funding announced June 20 will become permanent as the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care continues restructuring.

Gradually, hospices and palliative care are becoming less an add-on and more an integrated part of Ontario’s public health-care system, said Firth.

“The goal is, from a care recipient’s perspective, to get them (hospices) integrated into the local health system,” he said.

As she announced the new funding, Jones praised Hospice Palliative Care Ontario for its long record of lobbying on behalf of the dying.

“You have taken a leading role in informing policy and promoting awareness, education and best practices in the pursuit of quality hospice palliative care in Ontario,” Jones told conference delegates, according to a press release from HPCO.

Ontario hospices are not fully funded in Ontario’s public health system. Before the June 20 announcement, hospices were to receive about $53 million this year from the province, which would fund up to 60 per cent of clinical services. Costs that are not clinical — heat, food, cleaning, etc. — are paid for by local fundraising.

In the 2022 provincial budget, the government committed to $1 billion over three years to support hospice and palliative care, most of it for home care. In December Queen’s Park increased it’s funding for capital costs to $250,000 per bed.

The funding announced by Jones expands hospice care for newborns and fully funds grief and bereavement care to survivors delivered from hospices.

“I just looked at some numbers this morning and for the fiscal year, ending March 31, Ontario hospices supported 33,240 bereaved (people). More than half of those bereaved are not families of those who received hospice support. They are people who lost somebody to sudden death or a car accident or a heart attack,” said Firth. “The hospices are the providers of a lot of bereavement care.”

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