Hospice Society confused about community confusion

Jacqueline Spies, executive director of the Campbell River Hospice Society, says the community seems to have the wrong idea about their new facility, based on the number of angry people who have been yelling at her about a lack of hospice beds in the plan.

“There seems to be a huge misconception in the community, by your average community individual, that we’re building a facility with beds, and I just don’t know where that’s coming from,” Spies says.

Spies says she’s been receiving angry messages – through Facebook, email, and in person from people coming through the doors of their current location on Dogwood Street – from members of the public accusing them of either misrepresenting themselves or just not doing enough for their community because of the lack of hospice beds in Campbell River.

“It’s obviously something that our community is very, very passionate about, and we truly do need it,” Spies says, “but at no point in time did anyone say that we were going to have them in this new facility.

“What I want to get through to people is that having a free-standing hospice will always be our dream. It is something that we will never drop and will continually strive to give our community,” she says, but the reality is that there’s no way the Hospice Society can come up with the kind of funds required for providing that kind of service.

Not right now, anyway.

The facility being built will have room to expand should funding become available for hospice beds down the road, but as Spies says, “It’s one thing to come up with the money to build it, it’s another thing entirely to try and come up with the money to run it.”

Spies says based on the numbers she’s been provided by Island Health it costs about $850,000 per year to run a six-bed hospice facility.

“And I have a 200-some-odd thousand dollar budget that I have to fight like Hell for just to keep our doors open with the services we already offer,” she says, clearly exasperated with the questions about why the new facility won’t have any beds.

She thinks part of the confusion comes from the name.

“I think what’s throwing people off is that they called it a ‘Hospice House,’” Spies says.

“When you call it a ‘house,’ people automatically assume we’re getting hospice beds, but we’ve never made any claim that it would, nor have we ever implied it. Most people understand that, and see what it is we’re doing, but the people who don’t … really don’t.”

Another complaint Spies has been hearing are veracious versions of, “Well, where is it? Shouldn’t it be built by now?”

And while she admits the project is significantly behind schedule, she’s also optimistic that people will soon see activity on the property on Evergreen.

“The biggest thing was that we were held up on servicing for the lot,” Spies says. “You know, getting hooked into the water and sewer and all that. We had one idea for how it would work, but that didn’t work out, so now we’re going to have to do something else.”

But there is good news, too.

“All the permits are in place, and we’re just waiting for this one little thing – servicing – and then we can break ground. I hope to God it’s in the next couple of months,” she says, which puts them a year behind schedule.

“My understanding when I started here was that they were supposed to be breaking ground last spring, which would have had us in there last fall. But those are the bumps and grinds of being given things and having to figure things out.”

The property at 402 Evergreen, beside the new hospital, was donated by the City of Campbell River and the 2,476 square foot facility will provide a home-like setting for their clients with a kitchen, library, counselling office, a multi-purpose room, a clinic and an outdoor courtyard.

For more on the Hospice House, head online to crhospicehouse.ca, and for more on the services offered by the Hospice Society, who are eagerly awaiting this new facility, go to crhospice.org