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HomeNewsProvincial grant helps Hospice Muskoka fill critical gap

Provincial grant helps Hospice Muskoka fill critical gap

Hospice Muskoka has received $150,000 through the Resilient Communities Fund from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF).

Donna Kearney, executive director, said it has allowed them to hire Christine Deegan as a nurse practitioner and Janessa Swanson as a part-time social worker. 

Deegan started Monday and Kearney said she will handle patient care which will allow her to focus on growth and planning for the future.

Kearney explained that it fills a large gap for hospice. “We now have 24/7 coverage in hospice so when conditions change we can respond very quickly,” she said. Deegan will be on-site five days a week and on-call every day, according to Kearney. 

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Meanwhile, Kearney explained Swanson will handle grief and bereavement. She added she’s already in the process of developing pediatric and family bereavement programs and is working with Wahta First Nation to form an intergenerational grief program. 

“Hospice is the only organization in Muskoka that does grief counselling,” said Kearney. “Hospice works with people to understand that grief is normal, it’s healthy, and there’s a good path forward.”

“This isn’t my first visit here to talk about how I can help,” said Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith, who prior to becoming MPP was mayor of Bracebridge. He added he’s had conversations with Health Minister Sylvia Jones who, like him, likes the hospice model of care. Smith said the talks with her will continue. “The health system is a lot of money moving around to a lot of different places in a lot of different ways,” he added, pointing out it’s not an easy conversation to have. However, he said he will continue to advocate on behalf of Hospice Muskoka.

Kearney said that it’s difficult to bring staff to Andy’s House for a couple of reasons: the lack of housing in Muskoka and hospice’s inability to maintain competitive wages. 

She urged those wanting to support hospice to write to Smith’s office. “Everybody needs to support hospice care,” she bluntly put it.

Kearney noted that 2023 could be a big year for hospice. On March 31, their agreement with Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) to fund five of their eight palliative care beds ends. Kearney is hopeful they will be able to secure permanent funding from the province before then. However, she believes MAHC would extend their agreement if the province doesn’t come through with funding. 

As well, the staff at hospice are working on a plan to open satellite offices in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst. 

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” finished Kearney. 

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