The North Thompson Valley likely does not have the population to sustain a stand-alone hospice house facility.
However, an enhanced acute/residential room, probably in Clearwater, would be favored over the status quo.
Those seemed to be the key recommendations of a consultants’ report presented to North Thompson Valley Hospice House Society and other interested parties at a meeting held June 23 in Little Fort Hall.
“I continue to support the option of dying with dignity in a less institutionalized setting,” said society president Jean Nelson.
“The society values input from other members of the community. We need a long term strategy,” she said.
According to the report, with a population of only 7,300, the North Thompson Valley would require between 0.65 and 1.2 beds for hospice/palliative/end of life care, statistically speaking.
At present, there are only four stand-alone hospice houses in Interior Health – at Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton. All are located in cities with populations much larger than the Valley’s.
The Valley’s number of residents is expected to grow only marginally over the next 25 years.
However, the number of those aged 75 years and older is predicted to be three times greater in 2041 than in 2011.
Presently, there are no dedicated palliative care beds in the Valley, except for swing beds at Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital and Forest View Place (the hospital’s extended care wing).
Palliative care accounts for one of the highest case loads at DHMH, second only to convalescence.
Interestingly, the report found that Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital regularly has noticeably more alternative level of care days than the Interior Health and B.C. averages. This indicates that people are remaining in the hospital after their acute care needs have been met because alternative care options are not available.
The reported suggested that possibly a hospice component could be combined with the campus of care that is being proposed for Clearwater.
The campus would provide a range of services intermediate between the basic level available at Evergreen Acres, and the high level provided at Forest View.
The report was done primarily by a former North Thompson Valley resident, Randy Sunderman of Lions Gate Consulting.
There are three societies involved with hospice in the Valley.
Clearwater and District Hospice Society used volunteers to provide emotional support for dying patients and their loved ones.
Although without a hospital to work from, Barriere and District Hospice Society provides support for those suffering from a loss, people who are terminally ill and their families.
North Thompson Hospice House Society’s objective has been to establish a hospice facility for the Valley.
“The hospice house idea is a good one,” said Drake Smith, a longtime NTHHS director and supporter.
The local funeral home director said he is familiar with the hospices in Kamloops and Penticton, and understands their importance.
Since the society started several years ago, there have been discussions on what such a hospice house should look like and where it should be located, he said.
Acquiring property and getting a building built have never been problems, he said. Individuals have already offered to donate land and money to do both.
The key question has been how the hospice could be kept open on a sustainable basis. Now, with the report, the viability of the different options is much clearer.
“Now we have a good tool to move forward,” Smith said.