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District of Muskoka backs Hospice Muskoka as they look for permanent provincial funding

The District of Muskoka will back Hospice Muskoka at a future council meeting as the not-for-profit organization continues its push for better funding from the provincial government.

John Klinck, district chair, suggested during the district’s Health Services Committee a “strongly worded” resolution be written up by staff and discussed by council at a future meeting. He also pushed the idea of, post municipal election, having a delegation with the Ministry of Health at the next Association of Municipalities of Ontario meeting.

It comes after the hospice was denied by the ministry a second time earlier this year for funding, according to John Sisson, the Chair of hospice’s Board of Directors. The specific ask was for help funding five additional beds and one pediatric bed. 

Andy’s House is Muskoka’s only palliative care home. It was opened in October 2020 with funding for three beds, but the capacity to host 10 residents. There are five other beds that remain empty because of a lack of funding. 

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Donna Kearney, Executive Director of hospice, says it would cost the province $105,000 per bed if they were approved for funding. “We have tried relentlessly to get funding from the ministry,” she said. “We have been very creative in our approaches since not being approved.”

That includes entering into a six-month contract with Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare allowing them to purchase five unused beds from hospice for palliative patients that end up in hospital. 

Other than that, Kearney says they rely on donors, but the current ask is too great for many to handle, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic. “The average person who has had donor capacity has lost that capacity,” she said. 

With a growing elderly population in Muskoka, she says the need for them to have access to end-of-life care is vital. “We know the numbers in Muskoka are higher than the provincial average,” Kearney told committee. Two beds were opened on May 20 with the remaining three going into use by the end of May. Kearney says this is just a short-term solution as they continue to fight for permanent funding. 

“We know there are people in the community who are not getting the care they need at end of life,” Kearney said, adding Muskoka is in a “crisis” right now. 

Councillors expressed their disappointment that hospice was denied funding for a second time. “It really angers me to hear that the government flatly says no and then we’re trying to sort this out again financially,” Terry Glover said. 

He added that healthcare costs are “constantly downloaded” to the district and municipalities. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it,” Glover said. 

“Your voice as an advocate for hospice is just crucial for us going forward,” Sisson told committee.

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