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Council agrees to $830,000 for hospices

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

It appears the region will chip in more than $830,000 towards the construction of two hospice sites across Durham.

The initiative is being developed by Durham Region Hospice, a partnership between Durham Hospice and VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) Durham Community Corporation.

Current plans call for a 10-bed facility in Whitby and five-bed facility in Clarington.

Durham Region Hospice representatives Melodie Zarzecny and Christine Raynor spoke to regional council at the June 6 meeting.

They had originally requested that council consider providing $1.1 million in capital funding for the project, $750,000 for the Whitby site and  $375,000 towards the facility in Clarington.

“We are here asking the region to support our efforts. The need is out there, and the need is urgent,” Zarzecny said, adding that Durham Region remains one of the few areas in Ontario without a residential hospice facility.

The construction of these two hospices, along with another in Port Perry, will create 20 hospice beds in the region.

And while Zarzecny says she would be pleased with this, it would still leave a lot of work to do.

A report from the Central East LHIN suggests a need for 33 hospice beds in Durham by 2019, but both Raynor and Zarzecny agreed that number is somewhat conservative.

Following the request, regional staff recommended doling out $834,900 in funding to the two projects.

Of that total, $569,250 would go to the Whitby site and $265,650 to Clarington.

The funding would be taken from the region’s hospital reserve fund.

The total capital budgets for two projects have been estimated at $7.59 million (Whitby) and $3.542 million (Clarington).

The province has pledged $3 million in capital funding and $105,000 annually for operating costs.

As Raynor and Zarzecny indicated, the rest of the money will need to be raised within the community.

“Residential hospice relies heavily on community support,” Zarzecny stated.

A $15 million “Comfort, Care, Compassion” campaign was launched in February and approximately $500,000 has been raised so far.

According to Raynor and Zarzecny, residential hospices can provide relief to local healthcare systems.

The average cost for an acute care bed is $890 per day, while Raynor says the average costs for a hospice care bed is $439.

It is estimated that $4.7 billion is spent annually in Ontario on palliative (end-of-life) care.

“Hospitals are intended to provide intensive care, intervention and save lives,” Zarzecny told council. “The cost of being in a hospital is double from receiving care inside a hospice.”

More importantly, she adds, hospice care allows residents to pass on in a respectable, compassionate manner.

Oshawa Councillor Amy McQuaid-England said the topic struck a chord with her personally.

She recalled sitting with her mother at the end of her life in a hospital room that she compared to a closet.

“I remember the smell of cleaning products and a mop, that to me is disrespectful for a place where someone is dying,” she stated. “People need to be able to die with dignity and respect.”

Whitby Councillor Derrick Gleed said people need to understand the difference between palliative care and hospice care.

To him, hospice care is a “way to treat people with dignity.”

“We don’t have that in Durham, it’s sad to say that,” he said. “Many of us stand and sit in a cold hospital, holding the hand of our loved ones as they die, I’ve done it, it’s not pleasant.”

Ajax Councillor Shaun Collier, the lone dissenting voter, said while hospices offer a worthy service, the province should be bringing more funds to the table.

“It would make absolute perfect sense that the LHIN would step up with funding,” Collier said. “They are the ones who are going to be saving money.”

Noting the region does not have an official grant policy, Collier believes there could be unintended consequences.

“If we open this further and keep making provisions to open up more things, we are going to have thousands of delegations asking for funding,” Collier said. “They are all very important, and I’m not going to be the one arrogant enough to say which one is more important than others.”