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HomeNewsLatest Ontario budget doesn't include long-awaited Hospice Muskoka funding

Latest Ontario budget doesn’t include long-awaited Hospice Muskoka funding

Donna Kearney, executive director for Hospice Muskoka” is “devastated” the organization’s two-year wait to receive permanent provincial funding for Andy’s House will continue.

The budget includes funding to add 23 new hospice beds in Ontario, on top of the 500 already available. 

“We’ve been asking for almost two years because we know that Muskoka has one of the highest (alternate level of care) rates in all of Ontario and we know that Muskoka’s population is about 10 percent older than Ontario’s population,” explains Kearney. She says it’s “beyond her” why they didn’t get funded.

Andy’s House is a palliative care home in Port Carling. It has eight beds with three funded by the province while the other five are rented by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC). According to Kearney, the $315,000 provided by the province covers 40 percent of staffing costs with the rest covered through fundraising. 

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The agreement with MAHC sees them cover the remaining five beds at the same rate the government funds them, $287 per bed, per day. It’s been in place since May 2022 and has been extended twice, and Kearney says it has supported 85 people. “I don’t know why the Ministry can’t flow money directly to hospice instead of having it go through the hospital to hospice,” she adds.

Kearney says the agreement with MAHC will continue through April.

Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith says he speaks with Kearney often. He says he’s seen the “absolutely amazing and fantastic work they do” at Andy’s House. He adds that he has spoken with Minister of Health Sylvia Jones about hospice funding. “She’s a big fan of hospice care for many many reasons,” he says. “Not only on the patient side but there’s a financial aspect as well.”

He says those conversations will continue. 

Kearney and Hospice Muskoka were at the Cottage Life Show in Mississauga over the weekend. “We needed to talk to people who cottage in Muskoka who have connections in Toronto and some of them at Queen’s Park to talk about what’s happening,” she says. Kearney adds it went well and she remains hopeful for a positive outcome.

However, she realizes a successful fundraising campaign could have a negative effect. “I think, part of the problem is the government understands that people care about hospice and palliative care and are willing to donate,” explains Kearney. “This is where we’re walking a fine line to privatization because if hospices are successful in raising fundraising dollars then why would the government support us?”

“It’s so frustrating because you’re doing something so meaningful and powerful for people and the fact that we have to scrape and claw our way to do it is demeaning,” says Kearney.

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