Decrease in donations forces hospice society to lay off nurse

“We felt strongly that we needed that position when we formed the society in 2010 and are very sorry we had to do this.”

There’s fear that people needing help with end of life decisions and care may fall through the cracks now that the local hospice has been forced to downsize its already scant staff.

Donor dollars have been on the decline since 2010, so due to financial constraints the Greater Trail Hospice Society has laid off its Registered Nurse (RN) and program director of five years. Her last day was June 26, which means 20 less hours in the homes of people needing support during their end of life journey.

“Hospice is that bridge between the community caring for itself and healthcare,” says Chairperson Brenda Hooper, herself a career RN. “Research has shown you form these close helping relationships from the community, not from the professional.

“We are that bridge, and that’s what Camille (Camille Roberts) has done – she’s developed those relationships.”

The organization will continue with one paid position, which is the 10-hour per week volunteer coordination job. Volunteer recruitment and training will remain status quo, as will the bereavement group meetings and support group for children.

That said, Hooper is concerned referrals will dwindle and clients overlooked without Roberts being the in-person contact with the regional hospital, care facilities and home nursing to ensure that palliative care and other services are delivered.

“We felt strongly that we needed that position when we formed the society in 2010 and are very sorry we had to do this,” she explained.

“We will still be there, but our program won’t be as robust.”

The Greater Trail Hospice Society formed at the behest of the Interior Health Authority five years ago, with the contract providing $19,000 annually and an office space in the Kiro Wellness Centre.

At the time, the organization used reserves from prior fundraising activities to augment the contract and create the two part-time positions.

“The society has worked hard to raise the profile of hospice/palliative care in the Greater Trail area,” said Hooper. “It was hoped the decrease in reserves would be offset by community donation and support, but this has not materialized resulting in the downsizing of staff.”

The group’s quandary from the start, is that grant programs and other financial resources do not provide funds for operating costs such as wages.

“We’ve been doing this on a shoestring,” she said. “The plan was to produce a really good product, provide a really good service that would be subsidized by us, and in the meantime the community would kick in with support.”

One of hospice’s largest annual fundraisers, a springtime “Swimathon,” provided an operational lifeline the last few years.

This year was a different story, when the event raised $5,000 compared to $15,000 in 2014.

“This happened for a number of reasons,” said Hooper. “That’s just the way it turned out.”

While there are many local groups who do support the program, their mandate is similar to available grants – money can be used for training and material items but not for paying employees.

“We need help with things like marketing,” said Hooper. “We could use more people and a body of volunteers who will help with special events like the Red Roofs Duathlon this fall.

“Hopefully we haven’t said ‘good bye’ to Camille forever but to maintain the level of service we now have, we had to do it.

“We will limp along but really need community support.”

This past year, Greater Trail hospice had two main program directions which focused on provision of support and care to those dying and their families as wells as community education around end-of-life issues.

Hospice supported 72 individuals and families in the hospital environment, care facilities and community. Volunteers delivered 470 hours of service alongside 65.5 hours of office support, bi-monthly grief support meetings, library resources on end-of-life and grief issues and loaned out specialized pressure relief mattresses as required.

For information, contact Hooper at 250.512.7721, email dbhooper@telus.net or visit trailhospice.org.