It’s truly a sad situation.
That’s what former Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington is saying about what’s happening with the Delta Hospice Society after receiving a letter stating her membership application has been rejected.
Noting she had applied months ago only to get a letter this week that she had been rejected without explanation, Huntington said it’s clear the current board is going out of its way to stack the membership with supporters only, regardless of who applies and their good standing in the community.
“It is such a sad state of affairs. So many people in this community have helped and believed in Delta Hospice,” said Huntington.
"The essence of a democracy is the personal discipline to respect another’s point of view and beliefs. This attitude of the board members, which so ironically are only there because they joined the society, is neither democratic nor respectful. In fact, it smacks of intolerance and disrespect, neither of which have a place in faith or in God’s Golden Rule,” she added.
Huntington’s application rejection is just one of among others who found out the society does not accept their membership requests.
Several irate Delta residents have complained on social media or filed complaints to government saying the current DHS board is in contravention of the Societies Act.
The board has called for a special meeting for June 15 proposing to amend the DHS constitution to have the society’s mandate include “To fulfill God’s calling to serve the sick and dying, and to follow Christ’s teachings and example in all we do” as well as “To function as a Christian community that furthers biblical principles governed by the Triune God.”
In a letter to current members, board president Angelina Ireland wrote it has become apparent that many affirm the position that DHS, as a hospice and palliative care organization, should stay true to its founding principles which protects the most vulnerable from euthanasia.
“To that end, it has also become obvious that we must return to our roots and fully affirm our Christian identity. Christianity birthed the roots of hospice care. The founders of the modern Hospice Movement, Dame Cicely Saunders and Dr. Balfour Mount, were both motivated to care for the dying from a place of Christian principles. The founder of our own Hospice Society was also inspired out of Christian love and hospitality. Today we find ourselves prepared to continue with those roots as our Society looks to the future,” she wrote.
Many who applied to become members of the DHS saw their applications rejected ahead of a special meeting called by the current board which wants to add statements about Christianity into the society's constitution
The move to add the religious element into the society’s constitution stems from the ongoing saga over the society’s refusal to offer the legal procedure medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner.
After the previous DHS board voted to allow MAiD, those opposed signed up new members to vote in a new board at a heated annual general meeting late last year.
Immediately afterward, new president Ireland reversed the policy, saying it’s not within the mandate or philosophy of hospice palliative care.
Saying the society board was hijacked by a small group trying to impose their religious views on the community, and there’s nothing in the constitution specifically against MAiD, members of the society opposed to the Ireland camp started a letter writing campaign to Dix.
They also began a membership drive in an effort to take back control.
Earlier this year, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced one-year’s notice has been given for provincial funding to be withdrawn, and the society would not be permitted to provide hospice palliative care.
“It’s on Feb. 25, 2021. That gives them time to decide as an organization what they might like to do and gives us time, consistent with the contract, to ensure hospice services are going on in the interim and to ensure there’s a continuation of care until that date,” Dix told the Optimist in an interview this year.
“I’m very respectful of people who have differences and don’t wish to participate, but you can choose not to participate but you can’t choose not to participate and continue to be funded for these services. We have to ensure these services are provided and I think the people of Delta will appreciate that,” he said.
Dix noted the contract had provided DHS approximately $1.5 million annually, covering 94 per cent of the society’s costs to operate the 10-bed hospice.
The community raised millions to construct the buildings that are on land owned by Fraser Health.
After the termination, hospice beds will still be provided, perhaps even at the current facility.
Dix suggested the hospice society’s $1 annual lease with Fraser Health stipulates a publicly-funded facility must operate at the site, so the current buildings don’t have to be shuttered and may instead be turned over to public management.
The Optimist has reached out to Ireland as well as Dix for further comment.