Gravely ill? Dying? Want to use the hospice room? You had better have cash on hand

By David F. Rooney

If you are gravely ill or dying and your family hopes you can find a measure of peace in the so-called “hospice room” at Queen Victoria Hospital, you had better have some cash set aside.

But — please — even though you may find your blood boiling and your blood pressure climbing, take a deep breath. Don’t get wound up and angry. This imposition of a $29.40 daily rate on use of the acute-care ward room currently used by the Revelstoke Hospice Society is not the BC Liberals’ fault, nor is the Interior Health Authority to blame for it.

This fee was imposed in 2000 by the previous New Democratic Party government and Queen Victoria Hospital’s failure to charge families for use of the room — which it owns, not the Hospice Society — is a 10-year-old oversight.

Hospice Society Chairwoman Patti Larson said the board was told Nov. 12 that the fee would be imposed starting Jan. 31, 2010. The news came as a surprise, even though it knew that people using hospice rooms in other health facilities across BC were paying a fee.

“What has happened in other communities is that the hospice beds are usually located in residential continuing care facilities,” she said. “In Revelstoke we are fortunate to have the hospice room in the acute care ward — not the cottages. That gives us access to the Serenity Room as well as the acute care ward itself.

Karen Cairns, a Kelowna-based communications officer with IHA said the agency really can’t say for sure why the fee wasn’t implemented in Revelstoke as it was elsewhere.

“It may have been related to the fact the palliative care suite is located in Queen Victoria Hospital, which may have caused some confusion as it is the only designated residential palliative care bed in an acute setting in the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap (TCS) Health Services Area,” she said.

Regardless, Larson said the society does not regard the fee as an impediment to anyone needing the service. It is very low and there is a process in place at the hospital that can provide assistance to someone who may have difficulty paying $29.40 a day.

Cairns said the IHA has no idea how many people have used the QVH hospice room for free since 2000 and has no intention of trying to collect from their families.

“This is a difficult and emotional time for families as they deal with illness and bereavement,” she said. “We have no intention of trying to contact the families who have used the palliative suite previously. We are advising new patients that the fee has been implemented as of Jan. 31.”

Larson said the society has an excellent relationship with the IHA and is intent on maintaining that.

“Interior Health allows us to use the hospice room and is supportive of our volunteers,” she said. “We have  a very positive relationship with Interior Health and we haven’t had any difficulties at all. Hospice has provided furnishings for this room in partnership with other organizations and we continue to refurbish and update is as necessary. Hospice also provides tea, coffee and water for families.”

“We provide the service. We do not provide the room and we have never provided the room. We just provide the service. I think the misperception comes from the fact that people call it ‘the hospice room’ and we are the Revelstoke Hospice Society. But we do not own the room. We just provide the service.”

Vivian Mitchell, the society’s volunteer coordinator, said the society’s trained volunteers receive a great deal of support from the IHA, which helps them provide more effective physical, emotional and psychological comfort and support to people who are facing their last days and their families. That service can be provided to people staying in the room or in a regular acute-care bed, at home, in one of the cottages, at Moberly Manor or some other care facility.

“It’s the service we provide that is important — not the room,” Mitchell said.