Jodie Siu has seen firsthand the gratitude of the dying and their loved ones for having hospice care in a central location across the street from Vancouver General Hospital.
The volunteer at Marion Hospice is upset the 12 beds there will be transferred west to the St. John Hospice slated to open next fall at the University of B.C.
“We have an aging society here and rising expenditures so we need to be investing in models of healthcare that are cost effective. It just seems to me to be ridiculous to be closing an established facility when we’re going to be needing more spaces as people age,” said Siu, an urban planner and board of directors member for Better Environmentally Sound Transportation. “This particular facility is centrally located, it’s well established, it’s beautifully run, the staff are excellent. I’ve talked to so many people over there who say we’re able to come into this location really easily and it’s just in a good spot.”
Marion Hospice has operated on the ninth floor of the Windermere Care Centre since December 2005. It’s owned and operated by Providence Health Care, a Catholic nonprofit that operates as part of Vancouver Coastal Health and is funded by VCH.
The hospice on West 12th Avenue accommodates 12 individuals with less than three months of life expectancy in private rooms with en suite bathrooms. It provides 24-hour nursing care. Its team of physicians, counsellors, music therapists, a pastoral care provider and other staff offer support to residents, friends and families, who can use a family lounge, kitchen and dining room.
Siu, who has volunteered at Marion Hospice since April, wrote the top brass at the health authority when she learned in November that its beds were slated to move. She urged executives to continue to provide operating funds for Marion Hospice even as new hospices open in Vancouver.
Anna Marie D’Angelo, senior media relations officer with the health authority, said Marion was always meant to be a temporary hospice location until a permanent hospice could be established. VCH hasn’t allocated any new money for hospices.
“Our number of hospice beds are correct until 2015 and then we’ll do another assessment,” D’Angelo said.
D’Angelo noted dying people also receive supports in their homes, in residential care and in hospital.
She cited an increased demand for home support.
“When we get our budgets, we try to allocate more there,” D’Angelo said.
Siu says studies show that patients with access to hospice care may use hospitals less often, which could save money for the healthcare system. She also noted hospices not only address physical pain, but also spiritual and emotional concerns.
The hospice beds at Marion will become residential care beds once the St. John Hospice opens. It will include the 12 beds from Marion plus two beds VCH has funded in Richmond.
There are 10 hospice beds on the East Side of the city and six in the Downtown Eastside, not including the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.