A screen displays a patient’s vital signs during open heart surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore on Nov. 28, 2016. A British Columbia hospice society that refused to offer medical assistance in dying has issued layoff notices to all clinical staff prior to its contract with the local health authority concluding next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky

A screen displays a patient’s vital signs during open heart surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore on Nov. 28, 2016. A British Columbia hospice society that refused to offer medical assistance in dying has issued layoff notices to all clinical staff prior to its contract with the local health authority concluding next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky

Layoffs at B.C. hospice that refused to offer medical assistance in dying

Fraser Health announced last year it would cancel the society’s contract, lease as of Feb. 25, 2021

A British Columbia hospice society that refused to offer medical assistance in dying has issued layoff notices to all clinical staff before its contract with the local health authority concludes next month.

The Delta Hospice Society board says in a news release that it deeply regrets “being compelled” to take the action due to Fraser Health cancelling its contract over its refusal to comply with a provincial policy requiring hospices to provide assisted death.

Fraser Health announced last year it would cancel the agreement and lease as of Feb. 25, 2021, pulling $1.5 million in annual funding that had covered most of the society’s costs to operate the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, B.C.

At the time, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the government would work to ensure Delta residents still had access to those 10 hospice beds, either at the existing facility under public management or at a separate site.

Fraser Health and the Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chris Pettypiece, a former society board member and spokesman for a group called Take Back Delta Hospice, says the current board failed in its responsibility to provide palliative care to the community and has now failed as an employer.

Board president Angelina Ireland, however, says the provincial government is to blame for “destroying a sanctuary for dying patients who want the choice to stay in a palliative care facility where (assisted death) is not offered.”

The Canadian Press

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