Eight residential hospice beds and four tertiary care beds have been approved for the North Island.
The announcement came at the Comox Valley Hospice Society’s annual general meeting Thursday evening. The Vancouver Island Health Authority’s (VIHA) director for home and community care and end-of-life (EOL) care Lois Cosgrave and executive director of continuing health services Marguerite Rowe made the announcement while giving an update on EOL care in the Comox Valley.
“I can announce tonight that we received, just in the nick of time, approval for our end-of-life bed plan, and that bed plan does call for eight hospice beds and four tertiary beds for the North Island,” Cosgrave said as the room broke out in a round of applause.
“Now of course, you know, we’re still in the early stages. The beds have been approved but the funding still needs to be sourced for sure and that’s a piece that we will continue to work on within the health authority.”
They couldn’t say exactly how the beds would be divided in the North Island but suggested four residential hospice beds for the Comox Valley and four for Campbell River, all of which would likely be outside of a hospital setting. Cosgrave also noted that due to plans to build the new hospitals in the two communities, decisions around where the four tertiary care beds should go, which would be in hospital, will have to wait a bit.
When hospice society executive director Terri Odeneal pointed out the Valley has a higher general population and a much higher ratio of elderly than Campbell River, Cosgrave and Rowe said the numbers are certainly not final and the Comox Valley could see a larger share of the beds.
During the question and answer period, some meeting attendees voiced concerns about when these beds would become reality.
Cosgrave and Rowe couldn’t give a date, but assured the group progress has been made and the plan is moving forward.
“All I can say is that Marguerite and I are very, very serious about moving this plan forward, and we will advocate for that as strongly as we can,” said Cosgrave. “I believe that we have made significant process in the last few months, in the last year, and I do believe that there is recognition that these beds are important.”
An EOL care plan was created by VIHA in 2007, and Cosgrave and Rowe were not involved at that time, but have been tasked with taking a fresh look at that plan, which they are in the midst of doing.
A couple of meeting attendees noted the VIHA strategic plan from 2007 said the Comox Valley should have residential hospice beds by 2011, which hasn’t happened.
One man compared Thursday’s announcement to Groundhog Day, noting a hesitation to believe the beds are really going to come any time soon when they didn’t materialize in the past. He also pointed out there are still no residential hospice beds north of Nanaimo.
Tricia Marr, a member with the hospice society, retold the story of her husband’s death — a story she said she also told years ago when VIHA was consulting for the 2007 EOL care plan.
“He was in the hospital, and I didn’t know if he was going to make it that night, but I was told that I couldn’t stay because the only bed they had was in a four-bed ward and I had to go home. I could not stay beside him and I just cannot believe that here we are six years later and we’re still talking about the same thing — no beds, no care,” she said.
“I am really disappointed that we’re talking about four beds for the Comox Valley, and I’m bitterly disappointed because six years has gone by and we haven’t moved anywhere.”
Cosgrave and Rowe said they appreciated the work the Comox Valley Hospice Society has put into creating a strong community network for EOL care in the Valley, and that they would bring the community’s concerns and frustrations back to VIHA.
Odeneal pointed out her dealings with VIHA feel different this time around.
“I do feel more optimistic than I have felt in years,” she said, noting Cosgrave and Rowe are regularly and proactively speaking with the society, which hasn’t always been the case in the past. “They’re reaching out to us, too.
“So there’s definitely been a change in the way things are working and I think that’s very positive.”