Bracebridge Mayor Rick Maloney may be set to write to Premier Doug Ford on behalf of Hospice Muskoka in hopes it spurs the province to provide permanent funding for Andy’s House in Port Carling.
In a letter discussed during the town’s Dec. 5 General Committee meeting, Donna Kearney, Executive Director of Hospice, wrote they only have provincial funding for three out of the 10 beds offered at the palliative care home. She said the provincial funding is temporarily at $416 per day, per bed, but that will be reduced to $287 at the end of March 2024. At the time, Hospice has a separate agreement with Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) to fund an additional 5 beds. It will expire at the same time.
“Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable level of funding for Hospice operations as this level of funding is not adequate to meet the needs of those who are dying in our communities,” wrote Kearney.
She asked council to back a request for the province to permanently give base funding for the 10 available beds at Andy’s House.
Committee gave its thumbs up for the idea, but it still needs to be ratified during the Dec. 15 council meeting before the support letter can be sent.
While she noted the community has been very supportive of Hospice, the amount of money they have received in donations recently is “lower than in previous years” and not enough to keep them going.
“As a result of the funding crisis faced by Hospice Muskoka, we are again asking the Town of Bracebridge and the other municipalities for which we provide services, for a letter of support urging the provincial government to provide Hospice Muskoka with adequate base funding to ensure the sustainability of palliative and hospice services in south and west Muskoka,” said Kearney.
Maloney pointed out council is well aware of the challenges Hospice has had in the past fighting for a more sustainable funding model. “We are also very knowledgeable, in many cases a first-hand experience, of the absolute excellent care that is provided to persons and families when they are at Hospice Muskoka,” he said.
Kearney continued in her letter, pointing out the current temporary funding model makes it difficult for Hospice to keep staff, expand their program, and offer services that meet the needs of the community.
She said Muskoka has 8.5 percent more people over the age of 65 than the provincial average.
Since April, the occupancy rate at Andy’s House has consistently been over 90 percent.
“Hospice Muskoka’s healthcare professionals are seeing more people in their 60s and 70s who are dying of advanced diseases not diagnosed during the preceding three years of the pandemic,” she wrote. “They are seeing more people who are homeless, under-housed or unattached to a primary care provider, meaning that they do not qualify for provincially funded homecare services. Very often, these individuals present with complex mental and physical issues and require much more intensive nursing care and personal support services.”
Deputy Mayor Brenda Rhodes said supporting Hospice can also be viewed as supporting MAHC and the hospitals in Bracebridge and Huntsville. She explains the work done at Andy’s House helping people at the end of their lives eases the burden on the two hospitals.
The Township of Muskoka agreed to a similar request in Nov., and it’s expected Gravenhurst will discuss supporting Hospice as well.