UPDATE: Fraser Health has said all the hospice beds at Mission Memorial Hospital will continue to serve palliative patients.
In a Dec. 18 email, the health authority said they routinely review their capacity to meet the needs of their communities, which includes seeing where there are under-utilized beds.
“We are managing our hospital capacity at this time and have the ability to increase our capacity as needed,” the email said. “We look at our bed capacity from a regional perspective to ensure that we utilize existing capacity across all of our hospitals to place patients in the most appropriate setting to meet their needs.”
Meanwhile, Elias’ petition has gained over 2,700 signatures. She has said via social media that Fraser Health reversed the decision because of the community’s pressure, but she suspects the “fight is not over.”
Fraser Health is planning to take over half the beds at Christine Morrison Hospice over the objections of the Mission Hospice Society’s (MHS) executive director.
Angel Elias of MHS said she was informed yesterday morning (Dec. 17) that a wing of their 10-bed unit would have to be temporarily closed and occupied by medical patients, due to COVID-19 causing bed shortages around the health authority.
She said she was given no timeline and fears the occupation will be permanent, claiming Fraser Health has been trying to take their beds for years and is now using COVID-19 as a pretext.
“Once they start putting medical patients there, they will never go away,” Elias said. “They’ve slowly stripped everything from our hospital, and now this is one more layer that they’re stripping.”
The Christine Morrison Hospice is located on the third floor of Mission Memorial Hospital (MMH), and has largely been funded by the community for the last 15 years. Initially $100,000 was raised to open the facility in 2005, and at least $60,000 has been raised annually ever since, Elias said. The MHS took over funding in 2016.
While the hospice does have six vacant beds, that could change at any time, and mixing end-of-life patients and medical patients is against their mandate because they are completely different types of care, Elias said.
“Hospice care is compassionate, it’s soothing, it’s caring, it’s loving, it’s a different ambiance – everything. Now that’s all going to go away,” Elias said. “This is not medical care.”
She said hospice patients can have two family members visit a day, while medical patients currently can have none.
Elias said she’s seen other units in Fraser Health with open beds, and those should be occupied instead of the hospice beds. She claims the reason why the hospice has low occupancy is Fraser Health has been restricting patient access, and diverting patients away to other facilities.
“They’re keeping our occupancy low – they control access to our hospice,” she said. “I get phone calls three or four times a year from people pissed off they can’t get their loved ones into Christine Morrison Hospice.”
She said Fraser Health told her that other hospices will be losing beds to medical patients as well. When asked what would happen if an end-of-life patient came in and the beds were all full, Fraser Health said the medical patients would be moved, according to Elias.
“If you could move that patient to an open bed, why wouldn’t you just put them there to begin with?”
Elias started an online petition to prevent Fraser Health from taking their beds; it has gained nearly 1,200 signatures in under 24 hours.
The Mission Record has reached out to Fraser Health and is waiting on a response.